Menards, Walmart among 16 retailers to receive DATCP price-gouging letters

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection sent cease and desist letters to 16 retailers accused of price gouging as consumers flocked to stores amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The stores the letters were sent to included Walmart stores in Milwaukee and Rhinelander, Menards stores in West Milwaukee, Burlington and online, Walgreens in Cudahy and Waukesha and El Rey Foodmart in Milwaukee.

The department said it had received dozens of consumer complaints and conducted price checking at more than 100 stores around the state. During a public health emergency, which Gov. Tony Evers declared on March 12, DATCP is able to enforce prohibitions on price gouging.

“While it is not uncommon for prices to increase during times of high demand or low supply DATCP will be closely monitoring the marketplace to ensure Wisconsin consumers are being treated fairly,” said Lara Sutherlin, administrator for the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection “Consumers can report their concerns to DATCP’s Bureau of Consumer Protection for evaluation and follow-up.”

State law prevents wholesale and retail companies from selling consumer goods or services “at unreasonably excessive prices” when the governor declares that a period of abnormal economic disruption exists.

Typically, sellers are not allowed to charge more than 15% above the highest price they had in the 60-day period before the emergency declaration. State law allows the department to either issue a warning to the seller or seek up to a $10,000 fine.

DATCP’s letters included issues the agency discovered on products like toilet paper, bleach, rice, water, limes, cookies, Lysol spray, milk, pinto beans, watermelon, surgical masks, hand cleaner, Lysol wipes and N95 masks.

See DATCP’s full list below:

Ace HardwareDelavanChlorox Bleach/Toilet Paper
Asian International MarketMilwaukeeRice
Dollar TreeMarinetteToilet Paper
El Rey FoodmartMilwaukeeRice, Bleach, Water
El Rey FoodmartMilwaukeeLimes
El Rey FoodmartMilwaukeeBleach
MatrangasRacineBottled Water
Pacific ProduceOak CreekRice
Restaurant DepotMilwaukeeToilet paper, cookies
WalgreensCudahyToilet Paper
WalgreensWaukeshaLysol Spray
WalmartMilwaukeeToilet Paper
WalmartRhinelanderMilk
C&S SupermarketMilwaukeeRice
CermakMilwaukeePinto Beans
CermakMilwaukeeWatermelon
GraingerOnlineSurgical Masks
Marketplace FoodsSt. Croix FallsToilet Paper
Menard’sWest MilwaukeeHand Cleaner
Menard’sBurlingtonLysol Wipes
Menard’sOnlineN95 Masks
Point MarketStevens PointRice

 

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.