Case Goes To Court Case Goes To Court

Joule Wellness agrees to give up all the profits made off raised rubbing alcohol prices.

RICHMOND- Rubbing alcohol. It’s used in everything from hand sanitizer to various cleaners. And during a pandemic, this substance plays a key role in sanitizing both our hands and surfaces. But, instead of making access to rubbing alcohol easier, one pharmacy chose to sell it for double the usual price.

On Tuesday, Joule Wellness Pharmacy settled with Attorney General Mark Herring’s legal team, agreeing to pay a $2,500 fine as well as giving up all the profits they made off the raised prices.

“During an international public health crisis, the last thing a Virginian should have to worry about when they are trying to take care of their families are scams or paying exorbitant prices for needed goods or services,” said Herring. 

Back in March, the Arlington company allegedly sold 16 oz. bottles of rubbing alcohol for $22 a pop, nearly double the $12.75 they paid for it.

This process is called price gouging, which is when a supplier will sell a product at a price higher than what is considered fair or reasonable. Usually, this happens when a product becomes more in demand. Herring hopes that this settlement will send a message to other businesses that price gouging will not be tolerated.

Unfortunately, Joule Wellness is not the only business allegedly gouging their prices. According to Herring’s office, they’ve received over 500 complaints across the state about alleged price gouging since the pandemic began. They’ve also sent over 150 investigative letters to businesses suspected of gouging.

And during this time of crisis, Herring says it’s more important that they crack down on the unethical business practice.

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Cracking Down on Price Gouging

Ever since Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia, several businesses have been allegedly price gouging their products like PPE, hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol.

In response, Herring pushed for the Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act, in order to protect consumers from potential gouging. The Act says that it’s illegal for businesses to raise their prices on necessary goods and services. But, it’s only in effect until March 2021.

Thanks to this act, companies like Joule Wellness can’t get away with taking advantage of people during a global health crisis. By raising their prices to $22, The Richmond Circuit Court ruled the pharmacy violated the act, saying that this price was way higher than other stores selling the same product 10 days before the state of emergency.

But, it’s not the only piece of legislation that protects consumers from high prices. There is also the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented economic hardships for so many Virginians, but unfortunately there are still individuals out there who have taken advantage of this public health crisis to make more money,” said Herring. “My team has been closely monitoring and investigating any complaints of alleged price gouging in the Commonwealth and I’m proud of the work they have done in this and other situations to put a stop to illegal price gouging. “

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has recovered over $355 million from violators of these acts. The section then returns that money to the consumers.

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Call to Action

If you purchased any rubbing alcohol from March 20, 2020 to March 25, 2020, you might qualify for a refund. You can call Herring’s Consumer Protection Section at (800) 552-9963. Or you can email them at consumer@oag.state.va.us.

Arianna Coghill is a content producer for Dogwood. You can reach her at arianna@couriernewsroom.com