States ask big tech to step up vigilance against online price-gouging

Krisztian Bocsi  Bloomberg

Credit Krisztian Bocsi Bloomberg

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said he's joining Attorneys General from other states in urging more rigorous monitoring of price gouging through online platforms.

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

"In New Jersey, charging exorbitant prices for essential items during a declared state of emergency is not only unconscionable, it's illegal", said Paul R. Rodríguez, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.

"These are just a few potential solutions, and we hope your company will put its considerable technological prowess to better protect your customers", the attorneys general wrote in letters to the companies. "We look forward to working with you to enforce current statutes on price-gouging and implement these reforms".

Shoppers have filed hundreds of complaints of massive price hikes on face masks, sanitizers and other supplies online as they rushed to stock up for the coronavirus pandemic.

The attorneys general cited sellers on Craigslist and Facebook as jacking up prices on hand sanitizer by as much as 10 times the normal cost.

A report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group released March 11, found almost 1 in 6 of the products sold directly by Amazon had prices spike 50% higher than the 90-day average.

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

The items flagged by Which? have been removed, eBay said, adding: "We have been introducing increasingly tougher measures to tackle this deplorable practice.' Amazon said it was 'disappointed" by price gouging, adding: 'In line with our long-standing policy, we have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers'.

Craigslist did not respond to NPR's inquiry Wednesday.

The government won't go after a family with a big supply of toilet paper at home, U.S. Atty.

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