Attorneys General of 33 states in the United States jointly issued a letter to major online platforms asking them to do more to stop price gouging during the coronavirus or Covid-19 pandemic.
In the letter sent to Amazon.com Inc, Walmart Inc, Facebook Inc and eBay Inc, the law enforcement officers pointed out higher prices being charged for hand sanitizer, facemasks and other critical supplies. The officers said the companies have an ethical obligation to stop pricing higher on these products.
The officers noted that many examples of price gouging of items needed to protect from the virus have been documented since the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency on January 30.
On Amazon, more than half of hand sanitizers and facemasks were found to be spiked by at least 50 percent compared to the average price. On Craigslist, a 2- litter bottle of hand sanitizer was selling for $250, while on Facebook marketplace, an eight-ounce bottle was being sold for $40.
The various initiatives taken by the companies including heightened monitoring, bans on certain ads, and bans on selling certain items have failed to remove the higher prices of critical supplies, the officers added.
As the pandemic is expected to continue, the attorneys general outlined specific steps to be taken by these online platforms to prevent the practice. They were asked to set policies and restrictions on price gouging during emergencies, rather than taking steps after it has already occurred.
They were also asked to trigger price gouging protections prior to emergency declarations in a state, and to create a fair pricing page or portal where consumers can report incidents.
The effort is being led by Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro along with officers from the states of Connecticut, Vermont and New Mexico, among others.
The letter was issued after receiving thousands of complaints on over priced critical supplies in recent days. Reuters quoted Shapiro as saying that his office issued 90 cease-and-desist orders to sellers engaged in the activity.
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