Do more to stop coronavirus price gouging, U.S. states tell Amazon, Walmart, Facebook





By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of 32 U.S. states have a message for the nation's leading online platforms: You are not doing enough to stop price gouging amid the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter sent on Wednesday to Amazon.com Inc, Walmart Inc, Facebook Inc and eBay Inc a bipartisan group of U.S. attorneys general outlined specific steps it wants the online platforms to take to end this practice.

Pennsylvania's Josh Shapiro is leading the effort along with attorneys general from the states of Connecticut, Vermont and New Mexico.

The steps include triggering price-gouging protections prior to emergency declarations in a state, being proactive in setting policies and restrictions on sellers instead of playing catch up and creating a "fair pricing" page where consumers can report incidents.

"They should use their data and analytics tools to stop price spikes, not play whack-a-mole when they find something on their platform...We are seeing them handle this on a case-by-case basis, which is really not practical," Shapiro told Reuters in an interview.

EBay said it is taking significant measures to block or remove items that make false health claims and is making efforts to ensure sellers on its platform follow local laws and company policies.

The other companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Shapiro said his office has received approximately 2,900 tips of price gouging on online platforms and brick-and-mortar stores in the past eight to nine days and issued 90 cease-and-desist orders to sellers engaged in the activity. He said if these orders fail to deter merchants, his office can fine them up to $10,000 per violation.

The issue of price-gouging on online platforms has become a hot topic among law enforcement agencies, officials and lawmakers as panicked consumers look to stock up on essential items during the outbreak.

It also reflects the intense pressure online platforms are under to protect consumers while delivering goods during a pandemic.

Earlier this week, Amazon said it had removed 3,900 seller accounts involved in this activity. In early March, the company said it is working with state attorneys general to identify and prosecute third-party sellers.

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

"Even new protections by your company including heightened monitoring, bans on certain advertisements, and bans on selling certain items, have failed to remove unconscionably priced critical supplies," the letter said.


(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

COMMENTS

More Related News

Leaked memo: Amazon is now recommending the workers sorting and moving your online orders wear face masks, but will only have
Leaked memo: Amazon is now recommending the workers sorting and moving your online orders wear face masks, but will only have 'limited' quantities

Amazon employs some 400,000 warehouse workers across 175-plus facilities. Workers at more than 50 warehouses have tested positive for the coronavirus.

'I'm worried that I have infected 1000 people in the last three days': Amazon workers reveal all the reasons why they're afraid to go to work

Amazon workers claim the company is not doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout their facilities and the communities they serve.

Grocery workers are key during the virus. And they
Grocery workers are key during the virus. And they're afraid

Every day, grocery workers are restocking toilet paper, eggs, produce and canned goods as fast as the items fly off the shelves. From South Africa to Italy to the U.S., grocery workers - many in low-wage jobs - are manning the frontlines amid worldwide lockdowns, their work deemed essential to keep food and critical goods flowing. "Everyone is scared everywhere, here in South Africa and everywhere in the world," said Zandile Mlotshwa, a cashier at Spar supermarket in the Johannesburg suburb of Norwood.

Amazon is turning away employees with temperatures over than 100.4 degrees and slashing up to half their pay
Amazon is turning away employees with temperatures over than 100.4 degrees and slashing up to half their pay

Amazon employees say the new policy could be a devastating blow to many workers who live paycheck to paycheck.

Walmart to limit how many shoppers can enter stores as part of coronavirus response
Walmart to limit how many shoppers can enter stores as part of coronavirus response

Walmart to limit the number of shoppers as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic starting Saturday, April 4, to promote social distancing.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Economy