A US egg company has agreed a settlement with legal authorities after being accused of price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic.
New York's attorney general launched legal action against Hillandale Farms last year, accusing it of charging customers exponentially higher prices than it did before the pandemic.
Letitia James said Hillandale gouged the prices of eggs it sold to major grocery store chains, US military facilities and wholesale food distributors throughout the state.
She said that during March and April 2020 Hillandale made millions from unlawfully increasing egg prices, many of which were sold in stores located in low income communities.
Ms James has now announced that she has agreed a settlement with the company that will involve Hillandale donating 1.2 million eggs to New York food banks.
“As New Yorkers scrambled to stock up on food, one of the nation’s largest egg producers raised prices to unprecedented levels and made it harder for New Yorkers to feed their families,” she said.
“Hillandale may have run afoul of our state’s price gouging laws and hatched a plan that targeted our state’s most vulnerable in its darkest hour, but today we’re delivering 1.2 million eggs to feed hungry New Yorkers and make things right."
Hillandale issued a statement confirming the settlement: “Hillandale Farms, a family owned company, is pleased to announce that it will donate 100,000 dozen eggs to New York food banks as part of a negotiated agreement with the attorney general of New York.
“Although it is important to note that the approach to pricing commodity eggs in New York using third party data provided by Urner Barry has remained consistent for decades, the resolution of this matter reflects Hillandale Farms’ deep concern about the communities we serve.
"We welcomed the opportunity to take steps to benefit New York’s most vulnerable families and support ongoing hunger relief in the state.
“As we have done for generations, we will continue to focus on producing quality eggs, operating with honesty and integrity, and maintaining the highest standards for our team, customers and animals.”
In the lawsuit, the attorney general said that Hillandale began raising prices in March 2020, as the pandemic grew to emergency levels.
From January 2020 to early March 2020, Hillandale charged Western Beef Supermarket prices ranging from $0.59 to $1.10 for a dozen large white eggs. On 15 March 2020, Hillandale raised that price to $1.49.
As the pandemic progressed, the firm raised the prices it charged Western Beef repeatedly, eventually reaching $2.93 per dozen - almost five times the price it initially charged in January.
Similarly, the suit alleged that Hillandale raised its prices on eggs sold to Stop & Shop, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Associated Supermarkets, and at the commissary stores at the US Military Academy at West Point and at military bases at Fort Hamilton and Fort Drum.
“In addition to ensuring Hillandale ends the gouging of egg prices, the company has committed to donating 1.2 million eggs to food banks across New York state,” the attorney general said.