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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Price-gouging on at-home COVID-19 tests draws scrutiny of state attorney general

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 18, 2022

A BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories rests on a table at Pacific Lutheran University on Feb. 3 in Tacoma. Cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in Spokane County, which has recorded five straight days of new cases exceeding 1,000.  (Associated Press)
A BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories rests on a table at Pacific Lutheran University on Feb. 3 in Tacoma. Cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in Spokane County, which has recorded five straight days of new cases exceeding 1,000. (Associated Press)

Washington state last year saw 1,300 complaints from consumers who said they noticed at-home coronavirus tests being sold at prices at nearly triple what they cost in a local pharmacy, according to the state attorney general.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a news release Tuesday one person complained about seeing an at-home test being sold at “$49, down from $69 a box” despite boxes at grocery stores priced at $14.99.

The Washington Consumer Protection Act outlawed businesses from unfairly raising prices on goods and services during a public health emergency, according to the news release.

“One of our most valuable tools to combat price gouging is the personal experience of Washingtonians,” Ferguson said in the news release. “When you see a business charging exorbitant prices on products that are essential to our health and well-being, file a complaint with my office.”

Washington does not have any law that directly outlaws price gouging on online marketplaces, though.

A law to address price spikes in pandemic-related goods like hand sanitizer was introduced into the 2021 Legislature, but struck down during hearings.

Others introduced this year, such as the Online Marketplace Consumer Product Theft & Safety Protection Act, would require anyone who uses an online marketplace to sell goods to provide contact and bank account information before they post about the sale.

The act would also suspend a seller if they did not provide these details, according to the text of the original bill.

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