MARCH 26, 2020

Mayor Lightfoot and BACP Encourage Residents to Be Cautious of Consumer Fraud Amid Covid-19 Outbreak

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) Commissioner Rosa Escareno today announced guidance for Chicago’s residents to be aware of and avoid consumer fraud related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, including false advertising, phishing and price gouging. Following an increase in reports of fraudulent practices, BACP is reminding consumers to report suspicious consumer fraud activity to 311.

“While a reasonable price escalation due to increased demand or decreased supply may occur in the current environment, price gouging on things like medicine and other essential items will not be tolerated by the City of Chicago,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Today we are reminding residents to report activity immediately, so the City can take action immediately. We are sending a clear message that those who prey on the fears and vulnerabilities of our residents to profit during this time of crisis will be penalized to the fullest extent possible.”

Price gouging is an intentional price increase that goes beyond what would be considered fair or reasonable. In the month of March, BACP has received 190 complaints of price gouging, compared to only two in all of 2019. The majority of complaints are for household or health items such as toilet paper, tissues and hand sanitizer--with some complaints related to food and beverage products, as well. BACP evaluates each complaint based on relevant factors, such as prices prior to the Illinois Disaster Declaration and prices at nearby stores, and will impose fines of up to $10,000 per offense.

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