Attorney General settles on pharmacy supplier price gouging case

Attorney General Josh Shapiro reached a settlement with a New Jersey-based pharmacy supplier that allegedly price gouged on hand sanitizer sold to Pennsylvania pharmacies.

Shapiro announced this week that Keansburg, NJ-based Landmark Supply Inc. entered an assurance of voluntary compliance with the Attorney General’s office after it found evidence that the company sold 8 oz. bottles of Purell Hand Sanitizer to pharmacies at a price increase of more than 20 percent.

“We won’t tolerate illegal price gouging, especially from suppliers and wholesalers who try to rip off Pennsylvania small businesses and their consumers. Fair prices are critical when so many have lost wages and nearly one in three residents are out of work,” Shapiro said. “You have a right in Pennsylvania to purchase life-saving goods at reasonable prices in times like these.”

Shapiro said in a press release that his office learned that 14 Pennsylvania pharmacies purchased the eight ounce bottles for $7.98 or $9.50 per bottle. Markups of over 20 percent during a declared state of emergency are considered price gouging.

As part of the assurance of voluntary compliance, Landmark agreed to pay $2,150 in civil penalties and $160.51 in restitution for consumers.

One of the pharmacies that purchased the product from Landmark was Medical Arts Pharmacy in Carlisle, according to the office.

When asked about the hand sanitizer, Haresh Malaviya, the pharmacy’s owner and pharmacist, said that he had only purchased 13 of the eight ounce bottles from Landmark and had kept the product for his staff.

“We got some masks from them and some hand sanitizer for personal use,” Malaviya said. “We wanted to keep ourselves and our employees clean. If we couldn’t open the pharmacy we would have taken a big loss.”

How to safely navigate grocery stores and deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic

Feeding the family is just one of the many parenting challenges taking on a new dimension as we navigate the constant changes to our daily lives brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond the question of whether a particular store has the grocery item you need, there’s a very real fear of how to safely shop and safely bring those items into your home.

At this point, there are probably three options for getting groceries — getting them delivered, picking up a prepacked order or going shopping yourself — and the experts offer specific tips related to each option.

For starters, if you are using a delivery service like Instacart or Amazon Prime Now, have your items left on the doorstep or nearby. Instacart recently added this as a choice, according to a March article by Consumer Reports. Other services allow you to do this too. Just be sure to select the option at the time you place your order.

Tip electronically too, so you do not have to hand the delivery person money. And, place your order sooner than you would typically do so, as all delivery services are experiencing much higher than normal volumes. In fact, last week Amazon temporarily shut down Amazon Prime Pantry due to coronavirus demand, according to published reports.

A March 19 Good Housekeeping article recommends washing your hands before and after you pick up the groceries, although researchers say the risk of getting the virus from surfaces is low.

If you are picking up an order packaged for you by a grocery store employee, consider opening up your trunk for the person loading the order into your car, Consumer Reports suggests. About 3,000 Walmarts offer this service nationally, Consumer Reports says.

When grocery shopping yourself, try to go when it’s less busy and do your best to employ social distancing practices, keeping about 6 feet away from other people in the store, recommends Good Housekeeping. Bring sanitizing wipes with you so you can clean the handles of any shopping carts or baskets you intend to use. Just like any other situation, avoid touching your face, eyes and nose. As soon as you go through checkout, use hand sanitizer.

Once you have put all your groceries away, Good Housekeeping recommends disinfecting all surfaces the bags have touched.

$19 for a bottle of hand sanitizer? Pa. Attorney General going after price gougers

A suburban Philadelphia store tried to sell a $2 bottle of hand sanitizer for $19. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said today that his office has now received more than 1,000 tips reporting price gouging.

As of today, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General has received 1,171 reports, of which the Office has followed up with 45 verified complaints and dispensed 34 cease and desist letters and subpoenas.

For example his office was able to stop a suburban Philadelphia store from selling a $2 bottle of hand sanitizer for $19.

“I’m grateful to everyone in the Commonwealth for reporting their concerns to our Office,” said Shapiro. “During these uncertain times, taking advantage of consumers in need of cleaning supplies and paper products is not only outrageous, it’s illegal.”

Shapiro said his office is following up on every tip regarding price gouging reported. To make a tip, email the office at [email protected].