State takes action against price gougers

By Patrick Lynn

Sixteen companies in Wisconsin have been sent cease and desist letters from the state’s consumer protection agency for allegedly gouging prices on everything from rice to limes, surgical masks, and toilet

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said on Wednesday it took “swift action” against businesses across the state following complaints of price gouging.

One such company is N95Sales.com, which is suspected of raising prices unlawfully on N95 masks, a critical item for front-line health care workers that is in short supply in Wisconsin. Other companies include Menards, Walgreens, and Walmart in Delavan.

Locally, Point Market was issued a warning letter for inflating the price of rice.

Letters were sent to:

Ace Hardware in Delavan, for Clorox bleach and toilet paper
Asian International Market in Milwaukee, for rice
C&S Supermarket in Milwaukee, for rice
Cermak in Milwaukee, for pinto beans
Dollar Tree in Marinette, for toilet paper
El Rey Foodmart in Milwaukee, for rice, bleach, and water
El Rey Foodmart in Milwaukee, for limes
El Rey Foodmart in Milwaukee, for bleach
Grainger, online, for surgical masks
Marketplace Foods in St. Croix Falls, for toilet paper
Matrangas in Racine, for bottled water
Menards in Burlington, for Lysol wipes
Menards in West Milwaukee, for hand cleaner
N95Sales.com, online/Oshkosh, for N95 masks
Pacific Produce in Oak Creek, for rice
Point Market in Stevens Point, for rice
Restaurant Depot in Milwaukee, for toilet paper and cookies
Walgreens in Cudahy, for toilet paper
Walgreens in Waukesha, for Lysol spray
Walmart in Milwaukee, for toilet paper
Walmart in Rhinelander, for milk

In his state of emergency resolution on March 12, Gov. Tony Evers declared that Wisconsin is experiencing a “period of abnormal economic disruption because of COVID-19,” and authorized DATCP to enforce Wisconsin’s price gouging law until the emergency has ended. This declaration applies to the entire state and applies to any consumer good or service being sold at wholesale or retail.

“While it is not uncommon for prices to increase during times of high demand or low supply DATCP will be closely monitoring the marketplace to ensure Wisconsin consumers are being treated fairly,” said Lara Sutherlin, Administrator for the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection “Consumers can report their concerns to DATCP’s Bureau of Consumer Protection for evaluation and follow up.”

To report suspected price gouging, please download a complaint form from the DATCP website at datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/DownloadConsumerComplaintForm.aspx and submit it via email to DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov.

To file a complaint, be prepared to provide the following information:

Date the product was offered for sale
Seller’s name
Seller’s location
Specific product being sold, including product name, product size, and price.