At a Manhattan pharmacy, the only one where we found masks available will cost you $30 for two masks. They usually cost around $7 each. Online, the mark ups are significantly higher for face masks, hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies.
“That’s ridiculous,” said one woman.
“I think it’s crazy, I think it should be made as accessible as possible and as cheap as possible,” said another.
Officials say they’re aware some people and businesses are trying to capitalize on the demand for certain medical supplies and cleaning products amid the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the Commissioner at the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection announced face masks specifically were in short supply across the city. Her declaration makes it temporarily illegal to for sellers to drastically increase prices.
“Any store that is found to be price gouging can be fined if anyone sees what they think is price gouging around surgical masks please call 311,” said Mayor de Blasio.
The restrictions will be in effect for 30 days and fines can reach up to $500 dollars.
State Senator Brad Hoylman wants to go a step further. He’s introduced legislation in Albany to address price gouging during public health emergencies. His proposal goes beyond the state’s price gouging law already on the books, implemented after Hurricane Sandy.
“A medical product like hand sanitizer during or wipes or face masks could not be sold over 10 percent of the retail value,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.
Hoylman says his fellow lawmakers are on board. We asked New Yorkers for their take.
“I would totally support that, yes absolutely. If they do I think there should be something in effect that they could impose those controls,” said one person.
“That’s completely fair. That’s completely fair. I think it keeps people honest,” said another.
“We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers,” said an Amazon spokesperson.
Officials don’t advise healthy individuals to buy face masks; they say they are specifically for healthcare workers.