In an effort to address the baby formula shortage plaguing the nation, Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 296 on May 17, declaring a State of Emergency, which activates New Jersey’s price-gouging laws.
Murphy first announced the action his “Ask Gov. Murphy” show on News 12 New Jersey, where he discussed the order.
“We all know what we’re going through as a state and as a country,” Murphy said. “And New Jersey has been hit just as hard, if not a little worse, than the average. So, I am signing actually an Executive Order tonight that will establish a State of Emergency around the infant formula reality.”The order also coordinates relief efforts and enables state agencies to take any emergency measures necessary to protect families from issues arising from the baby formula shortage.
“We firmly believe that New Jersey is the best place in the nation to raise a family, and during this challenging time, we want to support our families with all of the resources at our disposal,” said Murphy. “I am signing today’s executive order to enable our State to take any necessary steps to address this critical issue. 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.”
“Families need our support right now, as the national shortage of baby formula is presenting challenges for many parents who rely on this essential product,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy.
New Jersey stands with our families and will work to provide equitable access to formula to ensure the health and well-being of infants throughout our state. — First Lady Tammy Murphy
The governor pointed out that with the State of Emergency in effect, an excessive price increase by merchants may be considered unlawful price gouging under the Consumer Fraud Act.
“As long as that State of Emergency is in place, folks can’t raise the prices any more than 10%,” he said. “That’s the maximum.”
The activation of the price-gouging laws empowers the Department of Community Affairs to investigate reports of potential price gouging and take action to curb any predatory practices.
“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 Matt Platkin. “Individuals or merchants looking to make a profit by violating the law during the current state of emergency will face severe penalties.”
All state departments and agencies are also authorized to take any steps to ease supply chain issues related to the formula shortage.
Murphy said he has spoken with the CEOs of two major baby formula companies that have a presence in New Jersey to stress the critical nature of the situation and offered any assistance New Jersey can provide.
“I said, ‘We’re here. Let us know what we can do,’” the governor said. “But it’s going to be a tough situation here for a period of time and we want to make sure folks know we’re here for them.”
A new website with information and resources about the shortage is available at www.nj.gov/babyformula.