NY AG warns against price gouging, 'misrepresenting' COVID test turnaround time

The warnings came as the state continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases.

December 21, 2021, 5:34 PM

With COVID-19 cases in New York state reaching all-time highs, demand for testing has increased as well, bringing with it concerns of price gouging and falsely advertised turnaround times.

New York Attorney General Letitia James' office issued an alert Tuesday asking consumers to report any potential price gouging of at-home testing kits after the office received some reports of testing kits being sold for double or triple their retail price.

The office said it has received reports of BinaxNOW brand tests being "unlawfully" sold for between $40 to $70 per package, when the tests typically cost between $14 to $24 at stores such as Walgreens.

"As New York sees an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases, more and more New Yorkers are looking for at-home tests and other tools in the fight against the coronavirus," James said in a statement. "If New Yorkers see exorbitant price increases on testing kits or other goods vital and necessary for health, safety and welfare, they are encouraged to report it [to] my office immediately. And fraudsters are on notice that if they attempt to price gouge during this new surge, we will not hesitate to take action."

New York law prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling products "vital to their health, safety or welfare for an ‘unconscionably excessive' price," according to James' office.

PHOTO: A person prepares to take a self-administered at-home Covid-19 test, received through a government program, in Easton, N.H., Dec. 7, 2021.
A person prepares to take a self-administered at-home Covid-19 test, received through a government program, in Easton, N.H., Dec. 7, 2021.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The attorney general also announced Tuesday it issued a warning to Brooklyn-based LabQ Diagnostics for allegedly misrepresenting its COVID-19 test turnaround time.

In a letter to the lab, which has mobile locations throughout New York City, the attorney general said some consumers have reportedly been waiting over 96 hours for COVID-19 test results to come back, even though the lab advertised that results would come back within 48 hours.

The letter, dated Monday, instructed the lab to update its website and signage at its test sites "immediately" to reflect how long people can expect to wait before they receive their test results.

"LabQ's own website states, ‘Turnaround Time Matters,' but so does being honest with consumers," James said. "LabQ and all other labs should ensure that they are giving consumers accurate information about when to expect test results."

LabQ did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

As of Tuesday afternoon, LabQ's website says consumers can expect their results within one to five days, "due to a significant increase in COVID testing." Earlier on Tuesday, it had stated that consumers could expect their results within one to four days.

The attorney general's office also asked LabQ to contact all customers currently awaiting test results to inform them when they should expect to get them, according to the letter addressed to LabQ.

"We appreciate that there is undoubtedly an increase in demand for COVID-19 testing due to the holidays and omicron variant. However, it remains important, especially during the holidays, to advertise and otherwise convey accurate information to consumers about when they can receive their test results so that they can plan accordingly," Mary Alestra, special counsel for the attorney general's office, said in the letter.

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