NJ tells Amazon, Walmart, eBay to stop price gouging during emergencies

Daniel Fowler
March 26, 2020

In a letter sent on Wednesday to Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O , Walmart Inc WMT.N , Facebook Inc FB.O and eBay Inc EBAY.O a bipartisan group of USA attorneys general outlined specific steps it wants the online platforms to take to end this practice.

There should also be online portals where consumers can easily report price gouging directly to companies, they said.

Before Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state emergency over the spread of COVID-19, activating Florida's price gouging laws, Moody said she began communicating with Amazon and other retailers in an effort to protect Florida consumers.

"We want the business community and American consumers to know that we endeavor to balance the twin imperatives of commerce and consumer protection in the marketplace", said the Attorneys General in their letter.

The issue of price-gouging on online platforms has become a hot topic among law enforcement agencies, officials and lawmakers as panicked consumers look to stock up on essential items during the outbreak. This continued even as the companies cracked down, removing or even banning listings of particular products.

Facebook, eBay and Craigslist also received letters Wednesday from 33 attorneys general about sellers improperly raising prices on in-demand items.

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The tips include a Montgomery County pharmacy charging $25 per face mask, and a drug store chain in Allegheny County selling a 12-roll pack of toilet paper for $21, Shapiro said.

A group of 32 USA states have a message for the nation's leading online platforms: You are not doing enough to stop price gouging amid the coronavirus crisis.

In a blog post published by Amazon, the company claimed that they have moved more than 500,000 listings that had been given inflated prices due to the pandemic.

Price gouging laws vary across the US, but they generally go after retailers and wholesalers for unfair markups, particularly during emergencies.

Though Amazon didn't go into specifics, price gougers used the service to sell hand sanitizer for as much as $80 a bottle earlier this month.

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