Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan and local business leaders today called for consumers and businesses to remember their neighborliness in the face of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Attorney General Donovan urged consumers to resist an urge to hoard and warned Vermonters to report any incidents of price gouging or COVID-19-related scams to his office. The Attorney General also released a plain language guidance for businesses on topics related to COVID-19.
“I am proud to stand with the Vermont business community,” said Attorney General Donovan. “We are calling for calm and common sense in response to the coronavirus. This is the time to solve problems and help each other. I’m committed to working together to help Vermonters to do what’s best.”
In times of emergency, two common problems that can arise in the marketplace are price gouging and unnecessary hoarding. Price gouging is when the price of essential goods or services are inflated during a market crisis. Price gouging is illegal in Vermont under the Consumer Protection Act. For petroleum products, price gouging is by statute illegal when the Governor declares a market emergency.
Unnecessary hoarding by consumers can also be a problem. “Local retailers are here to help and to provide the goods and services Vermonters want and need,” said Erin Sigrist, President of the Vermont Retailers and Grocers Association. “Retailers are your friends and neighbors and can help you determine the right amounts of essential items you may want or need if you need to stay home for a couple of weeks for yourself or a loved one.”
To assist small businesses through this crisis, the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) prepared a “plain language guidance” on topics related to COVID-19. The topics range from providing sick time to employees to price gouging to continuity planning. The guidance is available on the Attorney General’s Office’s help page for small businesses.
Vermonters should also be careful to protect themselves from COVID-19-related scams. These scams might come in the form of fake healthcare products that supposedly protect or cure you from COVID-19. Scams could also be fake charity appeals that supposedly help people or communities impacted by the pandemic. For more information on charities scams, see our CAP Connection blog post on the topic.
Concerned Vermonters can report COVID-19-related scams, price gouging, or other consumer concerns to CAP. The following tips can protect you from scams:
● Beware of unsolicited calls or emails
● Don’t give out personal information
● Be alert to scare tactics: Scammers demand immediate action or make threatening statements
● Don’t talk to them: hang up!
● Don’t open attachments: hit delete!
Vermonters who want to report scam activity or sign up for Scam Alerts can contact CAP at 800-649-2424 or https://ago.vermont.gov/cap/consumer-complaint/.
Source: MONTPELIER – Office of the Attorney General 3.12.2020