Morristown, NJ

Governor Murphy Activates Price Gouging Laws & More to Address National Baby Formula Shortage

Morristown Minute

Executive Order No. 296 declares a State of Emergency to activate State price gouging laws and relief efforts to address the national baby formula shortage.

Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 296 today which declares a State of Emergency to activate State price gouging laws and relief efforts to address the national baby formula shortage.

The Department of Health also released guidance today for families facing challenges as a result of the shortage.

“To any retailer who may try to take advantage of vulnerable families during this shortage, let me be clear that this reprehensible action will not be tolerated. And to any New Jerseyan affected by this shortage, rest assured that my administration will do everything in our power to ensure families have access to the formula they need.” – Governor Murphy

With the State of Emergency in effect, an excessive increase in the pricing of baby formula may be considered unlawful price gouging under the Consumer Fraud Act.

The activation of these price gouging laws allows the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to investigate reports of potential price gouging and “take action to curb such predatory practices.”

DCA will also continue to monitor the marketplace for other predatory and unlawful practices, including the sale of expired or unauthorized formula.

"We want businesses and consumers to know the price gouging law is now in effect to ensure baby formula is not excessively priced anywhere it is offered or sold in the state,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. "Individuals or merchants looking to make a profit by violating the law during the current state of emergency will face severe penalties.”

Under the order, all State departments and agencies are also authorized to take steps – such as issuing waivers, orders, directives, or emergency regulations – to help ease supply chain issues in regard to formula, limit actions that would reduce the availability of formula, and draw on federal resources to accomplish these goals.

Governor Murphy also spoke with the leaders of two major baby formula companies with a presence in New Jersey to “emphasize the critical nature of the current situation” and offer state assistance.

The New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) recently applied for a federal waiver that allows program participants to exchange their recalled formula at any store.

Certain formulas may be more difficult to obtain than others, therefore WIC recently instituted formula substitutions so that program participants can replace their special formulas with other types of formula, as dictated by their doctor.

The program will apply for two additional federal waivers NJ is now eligible for – one of which would allow participants to receive a different brand of formula without needing a doctor’s note, and the other would allow WIC participants to receive different forms and sizes of formula than they normally receive.

“Feeding your infant during this shortage can be stressful. If you are in need of emotional support, your local maternal health consortia can connect you with counseling services, virtual support groups, and other resources you may need.” – Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

For a copy of Executive Order No. 296, click here.

For DOH’s guidance for families impacted by the shortage, details on how to file a complaint with DCA about suspected price gouging or unfair business practices related to the sale of baby formula, and other information about the state’s efforts to address the national baby formula shortage, visit nj.gov/babyformula.

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