The New York attorney general this week filed a lawsuit against a major egg producer, alleging that Hillandale Farms raised prices for eggs in the midst of the pandemic to as much as quadruple the prices it charged between January and early March.
Hillendale has denied the allegations and said it worked to make sure eggs would remain on store shelves for its customers.
When it comes to raising prices, what is legal and what is not?
In a free market society, you can raise the price on your products. But Omri Ben-Shahar, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said once a state of emergency is declared, raising it too much could be considered price gouging.
“The price cannot rise to a level that, we sometimes call it, unconscionable,” he said.
And in an emergency, like a hurricane, an earthquake or a pandemic, price increases that might be OK under other circumstances raise questions.
“That starts to feel a little more like taking advantage of someone when they’re down,” said Andrew Novakovic, professor of agricultural economics emeritus at Cornell University.
In a lot of states, anti-gouging laws reference essential goods, which in many states means fuel, medicine and food.
Charging a lot more for those during an emergency is illegal.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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