Rutledge Sends Letters to Amazon, eBay and Walmart amid COVID-19 Price GougingWed, Mar 18, 2020
Says, ‘committed to working with online retail platforms to hold pandemic profiteers accountable’
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge sent letters to Amazon, eBay and Walmart which allow third-party sellers to offer consumer goods through online retail platforms. The letter notified the companies’ CEOs that Arkansas’s price gouging laws automatically went into effect on March 11, 2020, after Governor Hutchinson’s state of emergency declaration. The letter also praised the companies for their proactive response in preventing price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic and encouraged them to take further action to stop bad actors from artificially raising prices on basic needs products during this public health crisis.
“Arkansans have enough on their minds right now and paying exponentially inflated prices for basic necessities shouldn't be one of them,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I am committed to working with online retail platforms to hold pandemic profiteers accountable to the full extent of the law.”
Arkansas’s price gouging law prevents individuals or businesses from increasing product prices by more than 10 percent of what the product would have cost prior to the state of emergency declaration on March 11, 2020. Violators can face criminal charges and fines as well as civil penalties of up to $10,000 per incident. Arkansans can report price gougers to the Attorney General’s Office at ArkansasAG.gov or call (800) 482-8982.
Rutledge Urges Arkansans to Participate in Free Price Gouging WebcastMon, Mar 16, 2020
Says, ‘state of emergency triggering our price gouging laws’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced an additional free webcast training hosted by the office on Thursday, March 19. The webcasts will be an opportunity for Arkansans to learn from consumer protection experts about the recent price gouging concerns sweeping the state, all from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
“The Governor has declared a state of emergency triggering our price gouging laws,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This free webcast will allow Arkansans to stay informed from the safety of their own homes.”
Rutledge will be hosting the following webcasts for free to any interested viewers:
- Consumer Protection: Price Gouging - Thursday, March 19 at 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Missing Persons Webcast – Wednesday, April 8, 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Freedom of Information Act Webcast – Thursday, April 16 at 10:00 a.m. to noon.
Hot Springs Man Sentenced to Pay Back Nearly $160,000 to Social Security AdministrationThu, Mar 12, 2020
Says, ‘We must identify and prosecute those taking advantage of government assistance’
LITTLE ROCK – A Hot Springs man who collected disability benefits from the Social Security Administration for 16 years has been sentenced to pay back $158,061.90, as well as serve five years probation and eight months of house arrest. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge worked in coordination with the Little Rock Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit (CDI). Ron Hawley,44, pleaded guilty to Theft of Government Funds back in June 2019 and was sentenced in March 2020.
“We must identify and prosecute those taking advantage of government assistance,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I am proud of convictions of bad actors like Hawley who abuse the system built to protect those truly in need. It’s convictions like these that ensure we have the resources for those who need it.”
The CDI determined Hawley had been self-employed since 2003 but concealed his work activities from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and continued to collect Title II Disability Insurance Benefits.
During the course of the investigation, Hawley provided false statements to the SSA regarding his medical impairments and work activities in order to continue his scheme and defraud the government.
Hawley was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Graham Jones and sentenced in U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas.
Rutledge Warns of Possible Price Gouging During Coronavirus CrisisWed, Mar 11, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today is reminding consumers to be aware of potential price gouging on healthcare products and other goods and services following Governor Asa Hutchinson’s public health emergency declaration. The announcement was made Wednesday morning after the first presumptive coronavirus case in Arkansas was detected in Pine Bluff.
“Price gouging is illegal, and I will hold bad actors accountable who take advantage of Arkansans," said Attorney General Rutledge. "Unfortunately during a time of uncertainty and worry, consumers must be diligent and report businesses charging prices for items that are beyond legal limits."
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to avoid price gouging:
- Know the average price for goods like hand sanitizer, soap and non-perishable food items before purchasing. If it seems too high, ask questions.
- Avoid high-pressure sales tactics to purchase items that claim to keep you healthy.
- When possible, deal with established, reputable businesses in the community.
- Stay updated on the latest risks, warnings and prevention tactics at CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
The price gouging law is triggered whenever a state of emergency is declared by federal, state or local governments. The ban on price gouging remains in effect for at least 30 days on goods and services related to the emergency and can be extended another 30 days by the governing body, if needed. The scope of the law is broad and is intended to cover anything that may be needed in the event of a state of emergency.
Arkansas’s price gouging law prohibits businesses from excessive and unjustified increases in the prices charged for essential goods and services during an emergency. Businesses may lawfully charge a higher price if they can establish that the higher price is directly attributable to additional costs incurred by the retailer, its supplier or as the result of additional costs for labor or materials.
For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Rutledge’s Statement on Hot Springs Police Officer Killed in the Line of DutyTue, Mar 10, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement following the announcement that Hot Springs Police Officer Brent Scrimshire was killed in the line of duty Tuesday night.
“My heart breaks for the family of Officer Brent Scrimshire who was killed in the line of duty tonight. Our men and women in blue hold the line every day so Arkansans can sleep safely at night,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Unfortunately, Officer Scrimshire paid the ultimate sacrifice and we are forever indebted to him. My prayers and deepest condolences go out to Officer Scrimshire’s family and the entire Hot Springs Police Department as they are faced with this devastating loss.”