Amazon, Wal-Mart, Costco, and other major supermarket chains have been named in a class-action lawsuit over an alleged scheme to gouge California consumers on the price of eggs, which has tripled in the state during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a Bloomberg news report, the lawsuit, which was filed in San Francisco federal court, says the corporations are seeking to profit from the misery of millions of Californians.
Several Retailers Named
The proposed class action, filed by a group of consumers, also targets Raley’s, Stater Brothers, Save Mart, Albertson’s, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Winco, Whole Foods and 15 mostly Midwestern farms including Cal-Maine Foods, Opal Foods, Rose Acre Farms, and Post Holdings.
It accuses retailers of seizing the opportunity presented by Governor Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus emergency declaration to dramatically increase the price of eggs, an essential grocery item. The potential class includes all consumers who have bought eggs statewide from any of these defendants since March 4 when Newsom issued the emergency order.
Number of Price Gouging Allegations
This is only one of the numerous price-gouging allegations made by consumers during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to consumer class action lawsuits that are being filed, prosecutors across the country are investigating exorbitant price increases on hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and masks as well as everyday grocery items like chicken, rice, and milk.
Price gouging on the Internet has reached ridiculous proportions in the last few weeks. According to an article in The New York Times, an individual in Florida was selling 15 N95 facemasks on Amazon for $3,799. In Massachusetts, a convenience store was selling milk for $10 a gallon, and in Minnesota, a smoke shop was charging $79.99 for 36 rolls of toilet paper. Officials have said some of these businesses could be criminally prosecuted although others have been backing down after getting cease-and-desist orders.
About 40 states including California have laws against price gouging. Some of those laws define price gouging as an increase above a certain amount – such as 20% — since the emergency declaration was issued. Others ban price increases that are not deemed “reasonable.”
Our class action lawyers believe that it is reprehensible to squeeze consumers at a time when they are struggling financially. Many have been furloughed, have lost their jobs, or are working reduced hours. To exploit them during such a vulnerable time is appallingly unconscionable. We will continue to fight for the rights of consumers and to hold unscrupulous corporations accountable.