Senior Shopping 20

Elaine Tueller, left, and Ben Tueller go through the checkout line an hour before the store opens to the general public on Friday, March 20, 2020, at Macey’s on 36th Street in South Ogden. Associated Food Stores have opened all their locations at 8 a.m. to anyone 60 years or older in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Consumer Protection has ordered the return of more than $13,000 to consumers who paid higher-than-normal prices for goods at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The state has received 933 complaints from customers claiming they were overcharged for medical goods, grocery items, gaming systems, bottled water and several other products, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The state has issued seven citations to businesses and individuals accused of price gouging, officials said. One investigation is ongoing, while the remaining six have settled with the state and have agreed to return their improper profits to consumers.

If a consumer cannot be identified, then individuals and businesses were instructed to send the funds to the state to deposit into its Consumer Protection Education and Training Fund.

The state law only applies to goods or services deemed “necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of events giving rise to a state of emergency.”

The statue doesn’t define what is “necessary,” so a judge must decide. The maximum potential fine for violators is $1,000.

Utah Department of Commerce spokesman Brian Maxwell said the division is still accepting complaints, since Utah remains in a state of emergency because of the pandemic, but the number of reported cases has declined.

Maxwell said there were more than 650 complaints the first four weeks after a state of emergency was declared March 6. The department received 190 the following four weeks, and since then they have received 90.

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