Over the last three weeks, Minnesota has received more than 700 complaints related to price gouging, according to attorney general Keith Ellison.
Unlike most other states, Minnesota doesn’t yet have a law on the books forbidding the practice. After the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, Gov. Tim Walz issued a March 20 executive order banning price gouging. That gives the attorney general’s office authority to investigate claims of unreasonably high prices in the state.
Walz issued the order after hearing reports of essential goods—such as food and cleaning products—being sold at “excessive and prohibitive costs.”
When the attorney general receives a report of price gouging, his office will send undercover shoppers to investigate. If the claims are verified, the state follows up with a phone call and asks the seller to stop, according to John Stiles, spokesman for the attorney general’s office.
“In some cases, we’ve taken some retailers to court,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ellison’s office encourages Minnesotans to continue reporting instances of price gouging or other scams. To that end, the attorney general has created a hotline and online reporting platform. As the novel coronavirus outbreak worsens, the state has seen an uptick in phishing scams and calls impersonating the government, Stiles said.
Ellison’s office is anticipating even more scams related to the forthcoming relief checks from the federal government.
Industrial giant 3M says it’s supporting efforts to combat scams, too. The Maplewood-based company has since set up a hotline and a website to report price gouging and the fraudulent sale of counterfeit 3M products.