On Sunday, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and other elected officials held a news conference at Oceanside Middle School to raise awareness of price gouging on items such as hand sanitizers, surgical masks and other health and safety products the public might want to purchase to combat the coronavirus. Curran asked anyone to report potential price gouging to the Consumer Affairs Department at pricegouging@nassaucountyny.gov. Credit: James Carbone

With hand sanitizers, face masks and other products that could help ward off coronavirus in short supply, Nassau County officials called on the public to report any instances of price gouging.

Shoppers often find empty shelves and exorbitant online prices for these items.

“It’s against the law to take advantage of this type of situation,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters at a news conference at Oceanside Middle School on Sunday.

Nassau County Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gregory May said retailers face fines of up to $5,000 for raising prices because of the outbreak as an unfair trade practice.

May said he saw some Facebook posts griping about price gouging on certain goods but has not received any formal complaints or launched any investigations so far.

Officials pointed out that hand sanitizers have been selling for as much as $100 per bottle online.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said he supports a proposed state law that would better define price gouging under criminal law. He said the current definition for price gouging is “unconscionable.” The proposed law would define it as a price increase of 10% or more.

Nassau residents can report price gouging to pricegouging@nassaucountyny.gov and to the New York State Attorney General’s Division of Consumer Protection at 800-697-1220.

“The price gouging is symptomatic of the fear,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday after a tour of Northwell Health Labs in Lake Success. “Any store that is price gouging now — it really is disrespectful, it's unethical, it's exploitive of people's fears.”

Cuomo said it was a “foolish calculus” for retailers to jeopardize losing their licenses to make a few more dollars on hand sanitizers — pointing out that they face investigations from the New York State Police as well as scrutiny from the attorney general’s office.

“Any store owners that is doing this should really think twice because they will get caught,” Cuomo said.

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