LANSING - The Michigan Attorney General has issued a cease and desist letter to Menards over allegations of price gouging.
Dana Nessel sent the letter after her office received 18 complaints from consumers alleging face masks, bleach, and other products had been marked up, despite the attorney general restricting retailers from the practice.
In a news release sent Tuesday afternoon, investigators uncovered evidence that "Menards appears to be exploiting public fear about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) through a systematic effort of raising prices."
"Big box stores are not immune to the Michigan Consumer Protection Act or the Governor’s Executive Order," Nessel said. "Large corporations must also play by the rules, and my office will work diligently to ensure this state’s consumers are treated fairly and not abused by businesses seeking to unlawfully jack prices up to line their pockets with profits at the expense of the public during this time of great need."
BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES - MARCH 11, 2020: View of toilet paper shelves emptied by panic buyers at Menards on the day World Health Organization declared Coronavirus to be a pandemic. Toilet paper, wipes, protective breathing masks, and other items
In a specific complaint issued by a man named James (last name redacted) from South Haven, he alleged a gallon of bleach normally worth $2.54 was worth $4.99 after going up to the cashier.
"I am very disappointed with Menards' choice of actions during this uneasy time," read the statement.
Menards will have 10 days to respond to the letter or Nessel said she would potentially take legal action against the retailer.
On Sunday, Nessel announced Gov. Whitmer has signed an executive directive to restrict price gouging in Michigan.
The AG's office has received hundreds of complaints alleging price gouging since it started enforcing the new rules.
If you see or have experienced price gouging, you are highly encouraged to report it to the attorney general's office. Take a picture of the product and, if you still plan to make the purchase, save your receipt.
You can make a report by calling the consumers' protection hotline at (877) 765-8388, or file a complaint online at michigan.gov/agcomplaints.