Wisconsin takes action on 16 companies for suspected price gouging

MADISON, Wis. (AP/WBAY) - Sixteen companies in Wisconsin have been sent cease and desist letters from the state’s consumer protection agency for allegedly gouging prices on everything from toilet paper to surgical masks, cleaning wipes to limes.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said Wednesday that it has sent the letters to companies including Menards, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Ace Hardware. A letter also went to N95Sales.com for allegedly price gouging for N95 masks, which are in short supply and critical for health care workers dealing with COVID-19 patients.

Other items that stores allegedly inflated the prices for included bleach, water, cookies, milk, pinto beans, watermelon and hand cleaner.

Letters were sent to (listed alphabetically):

  • Ace Hardware in Delavan, for Clorox bleach and toilet paper
  • Asian International Market in Milwaukee, for rice
  • C&S Supermarket in Milwaukee, for rice
  • Cermak in Milwaukee, for pinto beans
  • Dollar Tree in Marinette, for toilet paper
  • El Rey Foodmart in Milwaukee, for rice, bleach and water
  • El Rey Foodmart in Milwaukee, for limes
  • El Rey Foodmart in Milwaukee, for bleach
  • Grainger, online, for surgical masks
  • Marketplace Foods in St. Croix Falls, for toilet paper
  • Matrangas in Racine, for bottled water
  • Menards in Burlington, for Lysol wipes
  • Menards in West Milwaukee, for hand cleaner
  • N95Sales.com, online/Oshkosh, for N95 masks
  • Pacific Produce in Oak Creek, for rice
  • Point Market in Stevens Point, for rice
  • Restaurant Depot in Milwaukee, for toilet paper and cookies
  • Walgreens in Cudahy, for toilet paper
  • Walgreens in Waukesha, for Lysol spray
  • Walmart in Milwaukee, for toilet paper
  • Walmart in Rhinelander, for milk
Source: Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

The consumer protection agency said it received dozens of complaints at over a hundred stores across the state.

Under state law, during a crisis, retailers and wholesalers and those who provide services are "generally prohibited" from raising prices more than 15% compared to prices before the crisis.

There are some exceptions, such as when low supply or high demand drive up the seller's own costs for obtaining the products or providing a service, as long as the prices don't exceed their actual cost "plus a reasonable markup."

If you suspect price gouging, contact the DATCP Consumer Protection Hotline. Call 1-800-422-7128, email DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov or use an online reporting form (CLICK HERE).

You'll be asked to report the seller's name and location, the date the product was offered for sale, and specific information about the product, including product name, size and price.