NY Accuses Top Hillandale Farms of Price-Gouging During COVID

Hillandale Farms may have raised prices at the start of the pandemic, charging as much as four times more and hitting low-income families, according to a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, reported Bloomberg. 

Hillandale Farms, one of the top five American egg producers, allegedly hiked prices on more than 4 million cartons sold to major grocery stores, the U.S. military and wholesale distributors. The company pocketed an estimated $4 million by unlawfully increasing prices, according to the lawsuit.

“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 US 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 denied the allegations, stating that it is “shocked and dismayed” to learn of the lawsuit.

“Our approach to pricing has been consistent for decades, and without complaint, whether that has led to profit or losses, and the last several months have been no exception,” the company, which employs 1,500 people, said in a statement. “We look to a third-party company, Urner Barry, which specializes in the timely, accurate and unbiased reporting of market news and quotations throughout the food industry.”