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Jax Customer Reports Mandarin Publix For Alleged Price Gouging; Supermarket Responds

Generic file photo of a carton of eggs.
Ischa1
/
Wikimedia Commons
Generic file photo of a carton of eggs.

Florida’s Attorney General’s Office has opened the state’s price gouging hotline for people to report drastic price increases during the pandemic.

One WJCT listener, who wished to remain anonymous, said she reported price hikes on certain items at her local Publix, at 10500 San Jose Boulevard in Mandarin.

The shopper said she noticed a drastic price change in the price of Publix-brand eggs from March 20 to April 1. 

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

“That same package that was in the high $3 to $4 range had jumped to $6.50, just in a 10- or 11-day period,” she told WJCT News. 

She said she receives government assistance, and rapidly changing prices affect her ability to budget for her other bills. 

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“With eggs being such a vital, basic food necessity, I'm on a very limited income and eggs are a significant source of protein for me,” she said. 
Because there was no toilet paper left, the shopper said she instead grabbed a pack of two paper towel rolls, which cost about $6. 

Related: Local, State And National Coronavirus Coverage

A manager told the shopper that prices are set at the Publix corporate level and not by individual stores. 

“We take the accusation of price gouging very seriously,” said Maria Brous, the director of communications for Publix, in an email to WJCT News. “When customers contact us inquiring on price increases, we ask them to provide the bar code number of the product, the posted price, and the location where they are shopping in, so we can quickly and accurately check our systems.” 

Ultimately, the listener decided to call Florida’s price gouging hotline, which tracks and investigates allegations of drastic and unnecessary rising prices. 

State Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office says it’s prioritizing reports of price gouging on these items during the COVID-19 crisis: 

  • Protective masks 
  • Sanitizing and disinfecting supplies, such as hand sanitizer, gel, wipes, cleaning supplies for surface cleaning, including paper towels, and commercial cleaning supplies
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE), including gowns, booties, gloves and other protective gear
  • COVID-19 test kits, swabs and related consumable medical supplies used in administering tests 

Kylie Mason with the Office of the Attorney General said investigators look at every case individually. 
“There is no exact quantification on the threshold,” Mason said in an email to WJCT News. “Our Consumer Protection Division reviews each allegation of price gouging on a case-by-case basis, taking into account not only the price charged, but other possible factors under the law such as any additional costs proven by the merchant.”

Violators of price gouging in Florida can receive fines from $1,000 to $25,000, depending on how many violations are found. 

The listener said she was told her call would be investigated.

“People, especially on Social Security, or maybe a welfare status, those are the people that are least able to afford any change,” she said. “And if you're already rationing items and you bump up the price of, for instance, the eggs to $6.50, that might be out of the reach of someone who is desperate for it.”

The Attorney General’s Office also looks into scams surrounding crises, such as soliciting fake tests. 

Anyone who wants to report suspected price gouging or scams can contact the Florida attorney general’s hotline at 1-866-966-7226 or file an online complaint here.

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.

Photo used under Creative Commons license.