Attorney general visits Jonesboro to discuss Suddenlink, COVID-19

Attorney General visits Jonesboro, discusses Suddenlink concerns and COVID-19 response

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge spent Wednesday in Jonesboro addressing COVID-19 price gouging concerns and Suddenlink complaints.

She said if citizens have any complaints with internet/cable provider, they should contact her office.

While Mayor Harold Perrin and Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh have forwarded the complaints they have received to her office, she said only 11 formal complaints have been filed with the AG’s office directly.

“We need that information,” Rutledge said. “We will have an investigator follow up with you. Once we gather these complaints, we’re in touch with the company--in this case, Suddenlink--to discuss those issues with them.”

One of the things they will look at is whether they are violating the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

“Are they charging consumers for products and services that they are not providing, stating that they would do those things? If they are, in fact, violating the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as the Attorney General, and my office we’re the ones by law who can enforce the Deceptive Trade Practices in the state,” Rutledge said.

Violators of the act, she said, could be fined $10,000 per violation and face a civil lawsuit.

Ideally, she said she wants Suddenlink customers to receive the services they paid for.

Some have complained they were charged for services they did not know they had. Others have complained the equipment stopped working.

“I’ve got a team of a couple of hundred folks in the attorney general’s office, we have a Public Protection Division that works specifically on those sorts of consumers issues, and we have investigators and attorneys who will look into this,” Rutledge said.

Currently, they are in the investigative stage and need people to file formal complaints with her office online at arkansasag.gov or by calling 800-482-8682.

Rutledge also addressed complaints of ongoing price gouging due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said since the governor issued the pandemic emergency, her office has received 2,000-3,000 calls a week, up from the 200-300 calls a week before the pandemic.

The chief complaint, the sudden increase in the price of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Investigations into PPE, where our medical providers are attempting to purchase PPE, being a mask or gown that was normally of $1 was being charged $20 for that same bit of personal protective equipment, as well as someone on Facebook Marketplace trying to charge 10 bucks for a bottle of hand sanitizer,” Rutledge said.

She said her office treats individuals the same as businesses.

So far, fines have not been handed out since the attorney general’s office is still investigating the claims.

Rutledge said if a grocery store can show they are being charged more from their vendors, which, then results in an increase in prices, that is not considered price gouging.

Copyright 2020 KAIT. All rights reserved.