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Businesses that price-gouge amid coronavirus fears can be prosecuted, Idaho AG says

"I encourage Idaho businesses to treat their neighbors fairly in the marketplace."

BOISE, Idaho — Any business that sells goods at a major markup now that Gov. Brad Little has declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak could find themselves in trouble with the law, the Idaho Attorney General said Friday. 

Any state or federal emergency declaration triggers Idaho's price gouging statute, which prohibits selling fuel, food, drugs or water "at an exorbitant or excessive price" during a state of emergency. 

"My office is committed to ensuring businesses do not use this state of emergency to exploit consumers," AG Lawrence Wasden said. "I encourage Idaho businesses to treat their neighbors fairly in the marketplace. Idahoans who see activities to the contrary should report instances of price gouging to my office."

RELATED: President Trump declares national emergency on coronavirus

The statute falls under the Idaho Consumer Protection Act. Wasden said that when evaluating whether a business committed price gouging, his offices consider the price the seller paid for the goods compared to the price at which they're sold to the consumer immediately before and after the state of emergency, as well as the duration of the emergency and any additional business costs to the seller because of the emergency.

Boise Lawmaker John Gannon also weighed in on the statue, urging Idahoans to stay vigilant.

 "I think we are recognizing that everybody is impacted by an emergency like this and it is only fair that people and companies don't take advantage of a situation where everybody is impacted by a possibly very serious pandemic," Gannon said.

Anyone who experiences price gouging is asked to file a complaint through the attorney general's website or email the Consumer Protection Division at consumer_protection@ag.idaho.gov.

RELATED: Gov. Little signs emergency declaration to prevent Idaho coronavirus spread

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