Albertsons Sued Over COVID-19 Toilet Paper Price-Gouging

By Lauren Berg
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Law360 (June 4, 2020, 6:38 PM EDT) -- Grocery giant Albertsons has been exploiting consumers amid the coronavirus pandemic by drastically increasing prices for high-demand items like toilet paper and medical supplies, in violation of Golden State law, according to a proposed class action filed in California federal court.

As the deadly novel coronavirus has spread around the world, killing more than 100,000 Americans so far, some Albertsons-owned stores have taken advantage of the situation by selling essential items like toilet paper far in excess of their pre-COVID-19 prices, according to the 12-page complaint filed Wednesday by consumer Eleisha Redmond.

Redmond seeks to certify two classes — one in California and one nationwide — of all people who have bought food, emergency supplies and other essential goods from an Albertsons-owned store at prices that went up by at least 10% after any pandemic-related state of emergency was declared.

On April 3, the suit noted, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order targeting price-gouging. The order prohibited price increases of 10% or more since February for items like food, consumer goods and medical or emergency supplies.

Redmond said she made multiple purchases from an Albertsons-owned Safeway in San Francisco following California's state of emergency declaration. These included items that Albertsons "priced far in excess of 10% above the pre-emergency price for such items," her suit said.

Redmond said she paid $19 for Angel Soft toilet paper that is normally priced at about $10 or $11 at the same Safeway location.

The suit asserts a violation of California's Unfair Competition Law as well as a negligence claim. Redmond is seeking actual and punitive damages, restitution, and an order barring Albertsons from engaging in the alleged wrongful conduct.

Representatives for Redmond and Albertsons did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Albertsons is far from the only company facing a lawsuit over alleged price-gouging during the pandemic.

3M Co. has been on a mission to limit price-gouging in protective gear, launching trademark litigation against New Jersey's Performance Supply LLC and Utah's Rx2Live LLC over accusations the companies are reselling 3M-branded masks at drastically increased prices.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods, Walmart, Trader Joe's, Costco and a host of other grocery providers were hit with a suit accusing them of illegally marking up the price of eggs, and eBay Inc. was accused of encouraging sellers to jack up the prices of masks, hand sanitizers, and other high-demand products.

Redmond is represented by Tina Wolfson, Theodore Maya and Rachel Johnson of Ahdoot & Wolfson PC.

Counsel information for Albertsons was not immediately available.

The suit is Eleisha Redmond v. Albertsons Cos. Inc., case number 3:20-cv-03692, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

--Additional reporting by Dani Kass, Bill Donahue and Dave Simpson. Editing by Daniel King.

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