New York authorities are accusing one of the largest U.S. egg producers of jacking up prices as consumer demand surged amid the coronavirus pandemic this spring.
The state’s attorney general, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Hillandale Farms alleging the Pennsylvania company raked in $4 million by illegally gouging shoppers on egg sales. Hillandale doubled, tripled and even quadrupled prices on eggs sold to commissary stores at West Point and U.S. military bases, as well as at Stop & Shop, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Associated Supermarkets and other major retailers, the suit claims.
“As this pandemic ravaged our country, Hillandale exploited hardworking New Yorkers to line its own pockets,” James said in a statement announcing the suit. “In less than two months, Hillandale made millions by cheating our most vulnerable communities and our service members; actions that are both unlawful and truly rotten.”
Between January and early March, Hillandale was charging buyers between 59 cents and $1.10 for a dozen eggs. But the company hiked the price to $1.49 on March 15 — two days after the U.S. declared a national emergency due to the virus — and a high of $2.93 a dozen by the end of the month, according to the suit. Prices did not return to their pre-pandemic levels until early May, James alleges.
The suit also accuses Hillandale of coordinating with commodity market research firm Urner Barry to justify the price increases. Hillandale and Urner Barry did not respond to a request for comment.
Texas prosecutors in April filed suit against Cal-Maine Foods of boosting egg prices by 300%.
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