On Wednesday, Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection sent more than a dozen businesses in Wisconsin cease and desist letters. Each of them is accused of raising prices unlawfully during the coronavirus pandemic on products like Lysol spray, toilet paper, bottled water, rice, and watermelon.
Out of those 16 in Wisconsin, 11 of the businesses are from southeast Wisconsin.
The businesses that have received a cease and desist letter have ten days to respond. Thursday, TMJ4 News went back to revisit some of the stores to look for price gouging. Our news crews went to Walmart, Menard's, two El Rey Foodmart locations, and Asian International Market. The prices of the products called into question by the state appeared normal.
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DATCP spokesperson Lara Sutherlin is encouraging shoppers to report big price jumps during the pandemic but stresses a small price hike isn't illegal.
"There's a lot of stuff missing from the shelves, and it's going to cost a little bit more money to get to the shelves if there is a strain on the supply chain," she explained.
DATCP said if a retailer can't justify their price hike, the agency will step in and work to get them in compliance. If that fails, their case will be referred to Wisconsin's Department of Justice. The penalty for price gouging in Wisconsin includes a civil forfeiture of up to $10,000.
TMJ4 News has reached out to the retailers in our area for comment. El Rey Foodmarket said it responded to DATCP and has provided invoices for products it purchased to sell. Here is the letter it wrote to DATCP:
C & S Supermarket told TMJ4 News it has responded to the state, but declined to provide a statement to the station.
TMJ4 News will post responses from retailers as they come in. If you see price gouging, you can report it to DATCP by clicking on this link.