Michigan Department of Attorney General Dana Nessel sent a cease-and-desist letter to Menards after the department received 18 complaints from consumers about price-gouging. Nessel reported that the company was selling face masks, bleach, and other products at high prices.
The attorney general’s office said customers began complaining about the company last week.
“Big box stores are not immune to the Michigan Consumer Protection Act or the Governor’s Executive Order,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “Large corporations must also play by the rules, and my office will work diligently to ensure this state’s consumers are treated fairly and not abused by businesses seeking to unlawfully jack prices up to line their pockets with profits at the expense of the public during this time of great need.”
In addition to charging exorbitantly high prices, a business may be in violation to the Michigan Consumer Protection Act if it causes “coercion and duress” during the sale, Nessel’s office said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on Sunday explicitly prohibit price-gouging related to the coronavirus. The order prohibits businesses from selling products at a price vastly higher than the one at which they acquired a product. It also forbids selling products at a price higher than 20 percent more of what it was sold at on March 9 unless the business can justify the increase due to a higher cost of bringing the product to the store.
Nessel said her office has received a total of 363 complaints about price-gouging as of 11 a.m. on Tuesday, many of them submitted since Friday at 1 p.m.
Menards will have 10 days to respond to the attorney general’s allegation or potentially face legal action.
As of Wednesday evening, Michigan has 80 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Fifteen cases were confirmed on Wednesday alone.
Michigan residents are encouraged to report suspected violations of the Consumer Protection Act online or by calling 877-765-8388.
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]