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Attorneys general tell Facebook, Amazon, and other online retailers to do a better job on curbing price gouging

Face Mask n95_respirator White Yellow ElasticThirty-one attorneys general are urging Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist to more rigorously monitor inflated consumer price practices by online sellers using their services.

“As our community faces an unprecedented public health crisis, I’m asking online retailers to do more at a time that requires national unity,” said Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford. “Together, we need to crack down on inflated pricing so our consumers can get the goods and supplies they need at fair prices.”

A letter sent Monday to the companies lists several examples of inflated prices on their marketplace platforms, which took place in March: on Craigslist a two-liter bottle of hand sanitizer was being sold for $250; on Facebook Marketplace an eight-ounce bottle was being sold for $40; and on Ebay packs of face masks were being sold for $40 and $50.

In their letter, the attorneys general recommend several changes to protect consumers from inflated pricing:

  • Set policies and enforce restrictions on unconscionable inflated consumer prices during emergencies: Online retail platforms should prevent unconscionable price increases from occurring by creating and enforcing strong policies that prevent 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 inflated pricing.
  • Trigger inflated pricing protections prior to an emergency declaration, such as when your systems detect conditions like pending weather events or future possible health risks.
  • Implement a complaint portal for consumers to report potential inflated price increases. 

In addition to Nevada, other states that participated in the letter include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico. 

If you think you’ve been a victim related to these or any other scams, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office in your state. See this listing to find the link.

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