LANSING, MICHIGAN — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has accused home improvement chain Menards of price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nessel said Tuesday that she sent a cease and desist letter to the retailer with the accusation.
Her office received 18 complaints from consumers about face masks, bleach and other products being sold at excessive prices at Menards. In some cases, the company is alleged to have sold the products at double normal prices.
Menards did not respond to a phone message seeking comment from the USA TODAY Network’s Detroit Free Press.
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“My office will work diligently to ensure this state’s consumers are treated fairly and not abused by businesses seeking to unlawfully jack prices up to line their pockets with profits at the expense of the public during this time of great need,” Nessel said.
Menards has 10 days to respond to the cease and desist letter or face potential legal action.
Joseph Potchen, chief of the Michigan AG’s consumer protection bureau, said the office sent investigators to several Menards locations and also to other big box stores, in order to compare prices.
Under the Consumer Protection Act, price gouging can be shown if a retailer sells goods at prices “grossly in excess” of what others are charging. But the statute does not define what that means in terms of how big of a price increase is too much, Potchen said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order, issued Sunday, more specifically defines price gouging as charging more than 20% more than what was charged for the same item on March 9.
Follow Detroit Free Press reporter Paul Egan on Twitter @paulegan4.