COVID 19 Test Price Gouging: NJ Warns Retailers Not To Do It

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Get a free COVID test kit for the price of a drink at this Oakland restaurantBartender Kimberly Denny, shows how to make "The Vaccinator," a signature cocktail that comes with a free COVID test at Cenzino Ristorante, Wednesday, January 12th, 2022.Mitsu Yasukawa/Northjersey.com

TRENTON - The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has sent letters to more than 50 businesses statewide that have been the subject of complaints over the price of COVID-19 test kits, warning them they could be violating the law.

Meanwhile, state officials encouraged consumers to take advantage of free tests that are available either through the mail or at dozens of sites statewide.

"We are informing retailers if consumers are complaining about their prices and making sure they understand that we will not hesitate to take action if their sales practices violate our laws,” Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck said in a statement Friday.

New Jerseyans have been scrambling to find at-home COVID-19 tests since the omicron variant began sweeping through the state shortly after Thanksgiving, often being met at pharmacies with a similar response: We're sold out.

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When consumers find tests, prices are rising. Walmart and Amazon, for example, had sold kits at a 35% discount for three months through an agreement with the Biden Administration.

After the agreement expired, Walmart increased the price of the Abbott BinaxNOW two-test kits from $14 to $19.88, USA TODAY reported. (The item on Friday was out of stock on Walmart's website).

Consumers could get relief. The Biden Administration beginning Saturday will require insurers to cover up to eight tests a month for each individual on the plan as long as consumers buy the tests through their insurer's preferred network.

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Consumers buying outside the preferred network would be reimbursed up to $12 a test, which could leave them paying for part of the test out of pocket.

Consumers can buy the tests online, or at pharmacies or stores, as long as the tests are authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs said it had received complaints about high prices of COVID test kits at more than 50 supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores.

The agency, which didn't disclose the stores, said it hadn't reached a conclusion on whether the stores had violated any laws.

Instead, it sent warning letters, noting the state Consumer Fraud Act protects consumers from what it says are "gross and unreasonable" prices during a public health crisis such as the COVID pandemic. 

Officials said consumers should:

  • Purchase and share private information only with companies they know and trust.
  • Check the FDA's web site for a list of authorized diagnostic tests.
  • Search the New Jersey COVID-19 hub to find free testing sites and hours.
  • Order a free test, available to New Jerseyans, through learn.vaulthealth.com/nj.

Michael L. Diamond is business reporter who has been writing about the New Jersey economy and health care industry for more than 20 years. He can be reached at mdiamond@gannettnj.com.

Source : https://www.app.com/story/money/business/consumer/2022/01/15/covid-test-price-gouging-nj/6531458001/

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COVID-19 test price gouging: NJ warns retailers not to do it

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COVID-19 test price gouging: NJ warns retailers not to do it

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