Legal round up: What is price gouging?

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Monday, June 29, 2020

MIAMI – Amid the coronavirus pandemic, health care attorney Matthew Fischer has found himself advising clients on matters like pivoting their business to selling PPE.

“I have clients whose business has dropped off and they’re surviving doing other things,” said Fischer, a partner at Zumpano Patricios. “I have some clients who are selling PPE to keep themselves afloat.”

Fischer’s helping these clients to negotiate with companies in China and find transport to the U.S.—all while staying in line with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.

But possibly the biggest question he receives from these clients: How much can I sell the PPE for here?

“The Department of Justice came out with a Price Gouging Task Force,” Fischer said. “They’re using the anti-hoarding provision in the Defense Protection Act to go after people who hoard supplies or jack up the price. The problem is, there are no set standards for what is a reasonable price during an emergency. So I help them navigate that and do their due diligence.”

The government’s not wasting time enforcing the law, either, with a Long Island man recently charged for buying masks for $2.50 and selling them for $4.50.

“I read that he has a lawyer and is going to fight it,” Fischer said. “I feel for some of these clients. They need to survive but their business decisions are under a potential threat of prosecution. They have to buy from China; they have to transport here; they have costs. What is price gouging?”