|RICHMOND (May 12, 2021) – In response to the Colonial Pipeline ransomeware attack that has disrupted gasoline supply throughout the Commonwealth, Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency has triggered Virginia’s anti-price gouging statutes designed to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for necessities during an emergency.
“This ransomewear attack on the Colonial Pipeline could create disruptions in the gasoline supply across the Commonwealth, and unfortunately, bad actors could take advantage of this just to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Herring. “Virginians should not have to worry about paying exorbitant prices for gas and other necessary goods during this time. I want to encourage any Virginian who believes they may have a price gouging complaint related to this incident to reach out to either my Consumer Protection Section or the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”
Enacted in 2004, Virginia’s Anti-Price Gouging Act prohibits a supplier from charging “unconscionable prices” for “necessary goods and services” during the thirty-day period following a declared state of emergency. Items and services covered by these protections include but are not limited to water, ice, food, generators, batteries, home repair materials and services, and tree removal services. The basic test for determining if a price is unconscionable is whether the post-disaster price grossly exceeds the price charged for the same or similar goods or services during the ten days immediately prior to the disaster.
Violations of Virginia’s Anti-Price Gouging Act are enforceable by the Office of the Attorney General through the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. Complaints should be reported for investigation to the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Section, with the exception of claims related to gasoline and motor fuel prices, which are handled by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
During Governor Northam’s state of emergency that was issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office has received more than 500 complaints and e-mails alleging possible price gouging activity and has sent more than 150 investigative letters to businesses. Investigation of these complaints has largely revealed that many price increases occurred further up the supply chain with manufacturers or distributors that were beyond the reach of the state’s price gouging laws, and this prompted Attorney General Herring to successfully seek amendments to the state’s price gouging law during the 2020 General Assembly special session.
Additionally, in April, Attorney General Herring led a national effort to address price gouging in the PPE supply chain, urging 3M as one of the largest manufacturers of PPE, particularly masks, to do more to address price gouging within its supply and distribution chains that was causing hospitals and healthcare providers to pay exorbitant prices for PPE.
If a Virginia consumer suspects they are a victim of price gouging, they can call the Consumer Protection Hotline or download a complaint form from the Attorney General’s website and submit it in-person, by mail, or by fax. Consumers are encouraged to keep any relevant documentation and submit copies with their complaint. If consumers believe they are a victim of price gouging specific to motor fuel they can also reach out to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Consumers can contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section for information or to file a complaint:
By phone: (800) 552-9963
By email: email@example.com
Online Contact Form/Online Complaint Form