RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — The coronavirus is already taking a major economic toll on Virginians. While money is tight, Attorney General Mark Herring says his office is taking steps to prevent consumers from being overcharged for critical products or punished for not paying the bills.
Herring said Governor Ralph Northam’s State of Emergency declaration last week triggered a law meant to prevent price gouging in the 30 days following an announcement like this. He said the legislation prohibits suppliers from charging “unconscionable prices” for “necessary goods and services,” including water, ice, food, cleaning products, hand sanitizer, medicines and personal protective gear.
Speaking remotely with 8News on Monday, Herring said his office has already received about 30 complaints of possible price gouging. He wasn’t immediately able to provide further details on these cases.
“People should not be having to pay exorbitant prices for basic necessities. That’s not going to be tolerated in Virginia,” Herring said. “If anyone out there thinks that they’re seeing price gouging let our Consumer Protection section know as soon as possible so we can investigate.”
Herring also recently filed an emergency petition asking the State Corporation Commission, the agency that regulates utilities in Virginia, to prevent late charges and disconnections if customers don’t pay their bills.
He said uninterrupted power, gas and water services are critical for preventing the spread of disease.
“We cant have utilities be disconnected at a time when we’re encouraging people to stay at home in order to limit the spread of the virus,” Herring said. “It’s most helpful for hourly wage earners whose income is most likely to be impacted by business closures and social distancing.”
Herring said he’s still waiting on the SCC to respond to his petition. In the meantime, he’s hoping utility companies voluntarily comply with his request.
Dominion Energy announced on its website that the company will suspend all service disconnections as the state grapples with the coronavirus. The company is also advising customers whose service was previously shut off for nonpayment to contact Dominion so their power can be restored.