For Immediate Release - May 02, 2010

Governor Patrick Directs Division of Standards to Monitor Signs of Price Gouging Following Water Emergency

BOSTON - May 2, 2010 - Governor Deval Patrick has directed the state's Division of Standards, which inspects item pricing at retailers throughout the Commonwealth, to closely monitor bottled water prices in areas affected by the weekend's water emergency, including inspecting stores in the region and responding to potential consumer complaints of price gouging.

On Saturday, an MWRA water main broke in Weston, creating a water emergency for over two million people in the Greater Boston area. As a result, Governor Patrick declared a boil order for all tap water for all uses except bathing, flushing and fire protection. In many communities, bottled drinking water was quickly snapped off shelves at supermarkets.

"We expect businesses to operate responsibly and to treat customers in an appropriately sensitive manner," said Governor Patrick. "There is never an excuse for taking advantage of consumers, especially not during times like this. I have asked our Division of Standards to closely monitor the situation so that we are protecting consumers."

As of this morning, the Division of Standards and the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation had not received any complaints of price gouging, but officials will closely monitor the marketplace throughout the life of the boil order. If consumers believe a store is inflating the price of bottled water, they should call the Office of Consumer Affairs' Consumer Hotline at (888) 283-3757.

"This is a serious situation for consumers in the communities affected, and they should not be faced with artificially high bottled-water costs because a retailer sees an opportunity to price gouge," said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary for the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. "We expect stores that have bottle water to sell it at the typical price, and we appreciate sellers' efforts to get bottled water in the hands of consumers as quickly as possible."

The Division of Standards will adjust inspectors' coverage areas during the water emergency to increase coverage in cities and town under the boil order. The Division will hold inspections of stores in the area to check on prices. If the Division receives a consumer complaint of gouging, inspectors will quickly investigate the case.

"We are prepared to monitor the market and ensure consumers aren't paying more for bottled water than they should," said Charles Carroll, the Director of the Division of Standards. "Our investigators will be on hand in the region, checking pricing on shelves and at the register, and responding to complaints."

The Patrick-Murray Administration's Division of Standards enforces laws, rules, and regulations relating to weights and measures and the use of weighing and measuring devices in commercial transactions. It consistently checks item pricing and pricing methods at retailers throughout Massachusetts. The Division is part of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. For more on the Division and the Office, visit and the Office's Consumer Connections blog, and follow the Office on Twitter @Mass_Consumer.