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Amazon Calls for Federal Law on Price Gouging

Amazon Calls for Federal Law on Price Gouging

Two states’ efforts against price gouging amid COVID-19 made headlines this week, with Amazon responding by calling for federal legislation.

New York’s Attorney General said her office stopped three Amazon sellers from price gouging hand sanitizer during the coronavirus public health crisis.

In one example cited in the press release, the AG’s office alleged that between February 10, 2020 and March 11, 2020, an Amazon seller charged consumers $19.99 to $29.99 for single 8-ounce bottles of Germ-X hand sanitizer, which typically sell for $1.00 to $3.00.

It said the three New York sellers will pay over $52,000 in penalties and nearly $23,000 in consumer restitution.

In response to the New York AG’s tweet about the crackdown, Amazon tweeted in response, “Thank you @NewYorkStateAG for bringing these price gougers to justice. We do not allow price gouging in our stores and are proud to work with your office. Only 2/3 of states prohibit price gouging. We support federal legislation that would close this gap and protect consumers.”

On Tuesday, Law360 wrote about Kentucky’s Attorney General appeal of a case involving crackdowns of price gouging by Amazon sellers. The Online Merchant Guild’s Paul Rafelson argued that the practical effect of going after Amazon sellers would have been to compel all sellers — even those out of state — to price items in accordance with Kentucky state law, which Rafelson argued was a clear violation of the constitution’s Commerce Clause. (EcommerceBytes wrote about the case in August in, “Online Sellers Group Beats Back Kentucky in Price-Gouging Lawsuit.”)

The article about the appeal, “Ky. AG Fighting ‘Law As Written,’ Amazon Sellers Say,” is available on Law360.com and highlights the issue behind Amazon’s call for federal legislation.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.