Morrisey alleges egg supplier increased prices
CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed suit alleging an egg supplier unlawfully increased the wholesale price of eggs in some cases by almost 300 percent.
The lawsuit targets Green Valley Poultry Farms alleging the company’s owner violated the state’s price gouging law by charging grocery stores exorbitantly higher prices amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Attorney General alleges the wholesale price of Green Valley Farms eggs increased between 228 and 297 percent – far exceeding the cap of no greater than 10 percent during a state of emergency or preparedness. He seeks an immediate court order to ensure the company complies with state law.
“No lawful excuse exists for such an increase,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Eggs are a staple for many households. We will always take steps to defend consumers from actions which violate our laws.”
Green Valley Poultry Farms, owned by Dutt & Wagner of Virginia Inc., produces 19.5 million shell eggs per year and ranks as Virginia’s largest producer.
In West Virginia, the lawsuit alleges Dutt & Wagner charged inflated prices to 34 grocery stores and restaurant suppliers — including several recognizable chains — in Cabell, Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Nicholas, Ohio, Raleigh and Upshur counties.
For instance, the lawsuit alleges Dutt & Wagner increased the wholesale price of a dozen Green Valley Farms medium eggs from $0.79 on Feb. 24 to $2.35 on March 30 — nearly 297.5 percent.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit cites a U.S. Department of Agriculture report in stating that his investigation found no evidence of an egg supply shortage.
The lawsuit also takes issue with Dutt & Wagner’s reliance upon a business publisher in setting prices. The Attorney General argues the publisher’s reporting does not exempt Dutt & Wagner from West Virginia’s price gouging statute.
The civil complaint, filed Tuesday in Greenbrier County Circuit Court, sets forth charges of unfair price practices and violating the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.
The Attorney General seeks a court order forcing Dutt & Wagner to pay restitution to consumers who paid above the authorized price and a civil penalty of $5,000 for each violation of the price gouging statute, along with an injunction that prohibits any similar conduct.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division remains actively engaged in pursuing inquiries related to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 60 complaints have been referred to investigators and dozens of subpoenas and letters have been sent to businesses whose conduct may have violated the state’s price gouging law or landlords whose eviction threats may have underplayed the need for a court order.
The Consumer Protection Hotline — 1-800-368-8808 — remains open to assist with claims of price gouging, COVID-19 scams or other ways in which bad actors may try to take advantage of consumers during the pandemic. People may also file complaints at www.wvago.gov.
Find the Dutt & Wagner civil complaint and a full list of grocery stores supplied by the defendant at https://bit.ly/2Cu0ag1.