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Council members move to stop price gouging

WBFO file photo

Buffalo Common Council members say price gouging is becoming a problem as the city deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. During Tuesday's online session, they shared reports of $4 for a stick of butter and $30 for hand sanitizer.

"The price gouging is horrendous and it's happening in more than just our large retail stores or our corner stores," said Council member Ulysees Wingo.

"We're talking $8 for the N95 face masks, when they were only selling this time last year for pennies on the dollar."

Moving forward, there could be serious penalties for merchants who are price gouging. Council members voted on resolution Tuesday that would allow the city to lift licenses if a store is believed to be overcharging its customers.

"This is not a time to price gouge," said Council President Darius Pridgen. The resolution, he said, responds to complaints of businesses charging excessive prices for necessary items.

"We should be reviewing that license and if it's really out of line, those stores should be suspended from having business until they have a hearing."

The measure will be delivered to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown for his approval.

"Sometimes, you can't find them (necessary items) on the shelf and if you do find them on the shelf, the prices have gone up," said Majority Leader David Rivera.

"That's unfortunate that...it's taken advantage of to drive the prices up at a time where we should be helping people."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.