A hardware store in Manhattan was fined for hiking prices on products like hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, cleaning products popular in recent weeks to prevent or ward off the spread COVID-19.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have both issued warnings to businesses in recent days that price gouging would be severely fined. According to de Blasio's office, stores found to be overcharging consumers will be issued a violation with a fine up to $500.
Scheman and Grant Hardware on W 38th Street in Manhattan was accused of hiking up the prices of disinfecting sprays, wipes and hand sanitizer.
"They have been fined. This is unacceptable," de Blasio said at a press conference Sunday. "Price gouging will be acted upon. This is a crisis, not a time to profit."
Scheman and Grant was closed Sunday, but a list of prices was posted on the store's door. Clorox and Lysol sprays were being sold for $20, while a three-pack of wipes posted at nearly $40.
Along with the high prices, the store had a notice posted telling customers to check the prices before buying the products because the hardware store would not be accepting returns.
Cuomo also spoke to the price gouging and the business's efforts, suggesting on Saturday that the retailer tried to charge $80 for a bottle of hand sanitizer.
“I want businesses to be aware that you can lose your license because of price gouging,” the governor said. “Not only is it disrespectful, it’s also illegal. And you will be caught.”
On Friday, Cuomo said he would direct AG Letitia James to investigate instances of price gouging of surgical masks and other materials. And on Saturday, Cuomo made an emergency disaster declaration which, among other things, allows the state to investigate and penalize those price gouging medical and sanitary supplies.
Out on Long Island, government officials condemned reports of widespread price gouging.
"We’ve seen this before with Sandy. Prices were raised astronomically and unfairly. Now we’re seeing this with the resources made to keep people safe from the coronavirus," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
To report incidents of price gouging to the New York State Attorney General’s office please call 1-800-697-1220.