Bronx, NY – Amidst the deluge of Bronxites trying to get COVID-19 tests in advance of the Christmas holiday and a surge in infection rates from the omicron variant, reports have been trickling in of private testing providers significant amounts of money for antigen and PCR tests. One such report to Assemblyman Dinowitz’s office reflected a 25% cost increase over the span of less than one week for a test, from $80 to $100.
New York State governs price gouging under its General Business Law (Section 396-r), stating “During any abnormal disruption of the market for goods and services vital and necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers or the general public, no party within the chain of distribution of such goods or services or both shall sell or offer to sell any such goods or services for an amount which represents an unconscionably excessive price.” The statute goes on to explicitly cover “essential medical supplies and services used for the care, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any illness or disease” as well as “any other essential goods and services used to promote the health or welfare of the public.”
The only permissible reason under state statute for large price increases of covered goods and services are if the increase “preserves the margin of profit that the defendant received for the same goods or services prior to the abnormal disruption of the market” or if “additional costs not within the control of the defendant were imposed on the defendant for the goods or services.
The Attorney General is tasked with enforcing this statute and violators may face a penalty of up to $25,000 per violation or three times the gross receipts for the relevant goods or services (whichever is greater) as well as restitution where appropriate.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said: “At a time when it is in the public interest to ensure COVID-19 testing is available to as many New Yorkers as possible, it is unacceptable for private providers to be using this as an opportunity to make boatloads of profit for themselves. I applaud the Attorney General’s ongoing efforts to combat price gouging for at-home tests, and urge her office to expand their investigatory focus to also include antigen and PCR testing as well. This is a public health crisis, and we need everybody making decisions based on public health factors – not financial ones.”