Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin on Thursday clarified what a state of emergency declared by Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday over an ongoing baby formula shortage means for merchants who may want to increase their profits from this coveted and essential item.

In a release, the Office of the Attorney General said Murphy's order put the state's price gouging law into effect, prohibiting for the entire length of the state of emergency and 30 days thereafter any price increase that exceeds 10% of what the price was prior to the emergency.

The OAG said the state Division of Consumer Affairs has received "approximately" 16 consumer complaints about baby formula price gouging to date, roughly half of them in the less than three days since the executive order was issued.

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Each individual sale is considered a separate violation, according to the OAG. A first offense is punishable by a civil penalty of up to $10,000, with the fine increasing to $20,000 for second and subsequent offenses.

Violators also may be subject to paying restitution to consumers, and attorney's and investigative fees, the release said.

The OAG said specific scams to watch out for include the offering or sale of expired baby formula, or any transaction that requires a wire transfer.

As the state Poison Control Center also suggested earlier Thursday, parents should consult their baby's pediatrician before making a change in formula.

Baby formula price gouging in New Jersey can be reported by filling out an online form, or calling 1-800-242-5846 to request a complaint form by mail.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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