By Jessica mathews/

Livingston County’s congresswoman and a local lawmaker will be among various other Michigan Legislators joining Attorney General Dana Nessel this weekend in answering calls to her office’s Consumer Protection hotline.

Various members have been stepping forward to volunteer. Among those joining Nessel will be 8th District Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin and Republican State Representative Mike Mueller of Linden. Nessel’s Consumer Protection intake team had received 1,053 price-gouging complaints related to coronavirus disease 2019 by 5pm Thursday. Nessel said with the upswell in consumer complaints, she’s happy to have the extra help from her friends in the Legislature to answer hotline calls. She added that Michigan consumers deserve a government that works for the people and this is a clear example of lawmakers rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.

Typically, complaints are received through an online form. However, the Consumer Protection intake team has taken 608 price-gouging complaints by telephone since Monday, when the Attorney General’s office began taking complaints via phone. There have been 445 electronically submitted complaints related to price-gouging in roughly the past two weeks. To allow for more efficient response by the Attorney General’s office, consumers are urged to file complaints online. However, hours of operation for the Consumer Protection tip line (877-765-8388) have again been extended to keep up with the high volume of complaints. The phone lines are generally open from 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday; however, operations have been extended from noon to 5pm Saturday and Sunday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order to specifically address price-gouging related to COVID-19. That order, in part, states no business or person can sell products grossly in excess of the purchase price at which they bought the product. It also says products cannot be sold or offered at a price that’s more than 20 percent higher than what it was listed as of March 9, 2020 – unless the seller can justify the higher price due to an increase in the cost of bringing the product to market.

Meanwhile, legislation introduced in the Michigan Senate by Sens. Moss and Ruth Johnson, and in the Michigan House by State Representative Mueller that would create additional tools for investigators to rein in price-gouging. The bipartisan bills would add price-gouging protections during an emergency declaration or market disruption. Nessel recently stated her support for the legislation.

Michigan residents are urged to report any violation of the Consumer Protection Act online through the link provided or by calling 877-765-8388.