April 5, 2021: Price Gouging Weekly Roundup
Kansas natural gas consumers are still reeling from the February winter storm, and Governor Laura Kelly has called for investigations into the price gouging of natural gas. One flower shop in Grand Rapids typical gas bill is between $2,000 and $3,000 a month, but February’s bill was $92,000. The Shawnee Mission School District also received a massive natural gas bill, reporting a $1.6 million bill in March. Kansas businesses may be facing bankruptcy as a result of these natural gas bills, which has prompted Governor Kelly to call on Attorney General Derick Schmidt, a candidate to run against her for governor in 2022, to “play the role assigned to him as attorney general and investigate gas companies.”
A New Mexico gas company alleges that it had to pay 150 times the typical price for gas during the February winter storm that swept the nation. The company reported its typical gas costs are $10 million a year, but the February storm cost an estimated $18.7 million. In response to reports of price gouging, at least four entities have launched investigations into the price changes of utility bills: the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, the New Mexico Public Regulations Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corp.
On April 2, 2021, New Jersey Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig gave an update on her office’s enforcement efforts to fight COVID-19 related consumer fraud, including price gouging. According to Acting U.S. Attorney Honig, “[e]xploitation of the global pandemic for illicit financial gain victimizes consumers, taxpayers, and federal programs alike. We are working with our law enforcement partners to investigate these schemes and bring to justice all those who would try to take advantage of the programs established by Congress to help America through the pandemic. We will vigorously pursue anyone trying to steal from those programs, engage in the hoarding or price-gouging of necessary personal protective equipment, or otherwise defraud the public.”