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Alleged price gouging in stores continues to be an issue

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Amid more public concerns over allegations of some stores that have suddenly raised prices on several goods, the Department of Legal Affairs’ Bureau of Consumer Protection has issued a reminder to businesses that local law “prohibits the practice of price gouging on certain items once a state of emergency has been declared.”

Last month, the Bureau carried out a public awareness through social media and the Attorney General’s Office website, pertaining to the price gouging law, and what consumers can do if they suspect such practice is occurring. (See Samoa News edition Mar. 17th for details.)

However, Samoa News has received more allegations of price gouging, claiming that the price of bottled water, soda products — including well-known brand names — have “suddenly gone up” by 25 cents or more.

All allegations received by Samoa News about price gouging were given the contact information for the Bureau as well as the website.

In an Apr. 8th letter addressed to local businesses and signed by Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell, who is the Bureau’s director, explained that on Nov. 13th last year a Declaration of Public Health Emergency was issued.

“Although the focus of the declaration has shifted from a measles outbreak to a COVID-19 pandemic, we are still in a continued state of emergency,” said Mitchell, who points to the local price gouging law that states that during an emergency declaration, it’s illegal to:

“[S]ell, rent or offer to sell or rent any consumer food items or goods, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, housing, gasoline, or any other goods or services necessary in an emergency response for a price of more than ten percent (10%) above the price charged by that person, contractor, business or other entity for those goods or services immediately prior to the declaration of a state of emergency.”

Mitchell explained that price gouging can include changes in pricing policies. For example, prior to the declaration, a store sold water by the bottle and by the case. Then after the declaration, the store sold cases of water using the per bottle cost and that increased the price of a case by more than 10% — that would be price gouging.

He further explained that there’s an exception to this rule if a business can prove that the cost of the product has gone up due to a suppliers rise in cost such as airfreight versus sea freight.

“You are hereby on notice” declared Mitchell that violators will be prosecuted and each offense is a Class A Misdemeanor with a civil penalty of up to $1000 per violation.  Subsequent violations can result in the suspension of your business license.

For questions about this law and its requirement contact the agency (

If a consumer suspects price gouging, a complaint can be filed with the Bureau, providing information about the store, business, or person that has raised its prices since the beginning of the declared emergency. It would also need the name of the product as well as the price before and after the emergency. The agency will send someone to that store to investigate the price increase.