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Attorney General Josh Shapiro today issued a letter with co-leading AG Hector Balderas, William Tong, T.J. Donovan and 29 other Attorneys General, asking leading online firms to rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers using their services.

The firms involved include Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist

“Ripping off consumers by jacking up prices in the middle of a public emergency is against the law. Online resellers like Amazon must join in this fight,” Shapiro said in his letter. 

He said the five companies form the backbone of online retail sales. 

“(They) and have an obligation to stop illegal price gouging now,” he said. “Work to put strong practices into place to stop price gouging during a national emergencies In the future.”

 “Americans are already worried about their health and the health of their loved ones during this pandemic. They shouldn’t also have to worry about being ripped off on the critical supplies they need to get through it,” said Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog. 

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Price gouging examples

The letter lists several examples of price-gouging on these marketplace platforms, all of which took place this month. A two-liter bottle of hand sanitizer sells for $250 on Craigslist. Facebook Marketlace lists An eight-ounce bottle for $40. Packs of face masks sell for $40 and $50 on eBay.

Attorneys General Shapiro, Balderas, Tong, and Donovan recommend several changes to protect consumers from price gouging:

  • Set policies and enforce restrictions on price gouging during emergencies. Create and enforce strong policies preventing sellers from deviating in any significant way from the product’s price before an emergency. Such policies should examine historical seller prices, and the price offered by other sellers of the same or similar products, to identify and eliminate price gouging.
  • Trigger price gouging protections prior to an emergency declaration, such as conditions like pending weather events or future possible health risks.
  • Implement a complaint portal for consumers to report potential price gouging.

Appealing to online resellers

“Online resellers have built advanced platforms and now it’s time to take that talent to help us beat COVID-19 by ensuring ready access to essential goods at fair prices,” Shapiro said. 

He said thecabove suggestions we’re just a few potential solutions. 

Each of the companies have the ability to implement other ways to protect American consumers during public emergencies, he said. 

”We look forward to working with you to enforce current statutes on price-gouging and implement these reforms” the AGs said in their letter

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