By Emily Wenger
Special to The SUN
Attorney General Phil Weiser has released preliminary data on the top consumer complaints reported to the Colorado Department of Law related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, consumers submitted approximately 300 coronavirus-related complaints, according to preliminary data, largely centered on pricing (37 percent) and refund (45 percent) issues. Other complaints include robocalls and texts offering either false deals with merchants, stay-at-home work schemes or other inducements to get people to click on fake links. These links can then infect their devices or steal people’s personal information.
“Scammers are now taking advantage of Coloradans as they search for essential products to stay safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Weiser. “That’s why we are asking anyone who has experienced or witnessed scams or price gouging during this public health emergency to report the incident to our office. By working together, we can protect ourselves and other Coloradans from those bad actors seeking to take advantage of this public health emergency.”
Of the complaints received on pricing, the top concerns were sanitary items such as toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and general cleaning supplies (26); food (13); and medical supplies/masks/prescriptions (5). The refund complaints largely related to lodging (24), travel (17), and lift tickets/skiing equipment (10).
The Attorney General’s Office offers the following tips for consumers related to price gouging — when sellers raise prices to an unfair or unconscionable level — and refunds.
• Do not panic and consult reputable sources for the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, including covid19.colorado.gov.
• Do not let price gougers profit off your concern.
• Remember that not all price increases constitute price gouging. There may be legitimate reasons for why a seller may impose a small price increase, including an increase in the seller’s costs or bringing the product(s) to market.
• Contact the business to ask about a refund or credit. Call rather than use an automated online reservation system. A chat feature may also work if you want a record of the communication.
• Before contacting the business to ask about a refund, review the relevant agreement or terms.
• If the business won’t issue a refund, consider asking about a credit for future use.
For more information about price gouging, refunds, and coronavirus-related scams and resources, go to coag.gov/coronavirus.
Complaints related to the coronavirus emergency remain under investigation by the Department of Law.
If you notice any scams, fraud, price gouging, or other attempts to take advantage of Coloradans during this public health emergency, contact Stop Fraud Colorado at (800) 222-4444 or StopFraudColorado.gov.