Media Moves

Amazon wants anti-price gouging law

May 14, 2020

Posted by Irina Slav

Amazon has called on federal lawmakers to introduce legislation targeting price gouging during national emergencies.

Diane Bartz reported the news for Reuters:

Online retailer, criticized for not acting quickly enough to curb sellers who charged hundreds of dollars for high-demand hand sanitizer during the early phase of the new coronavirus pandemic, urged Congress on Wednesday to pass a law against price gouging during times of national emergency.

Price-gouging is not usually illegal but can be in certain states if there is an emergency, like during a hurricane or the current pandemic.

In a blog post, Brian Huseman, a vice president of public policy at Amazon, noted that different states had different definitions of gouging and that some fight gouging using consumer-protection statutes.

Fox Business’s James Leggate wrote:

The spread of the coronavirus has been followed by “a nationwide surge in complaints about price gouging,” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, wrote in a blog post.

Many states have price-gouging laws on the books, but the definitions vary. About a dozen states have no law prohibiting price gouging at all, though some state legislatures have introduced bills.

However, a new federal law could give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to go after all the “scammers” who have drastically raised prices on essential goods in the face of the pandemic, according to Huseman, who previously worked as a consumer protection attorney at the FTC. That would ensure there are no gaps in consumer protection and put price gougers on notice.

Chaim Gartenberg from The Verge reported:

The company says that inconsistent state standards limit its ability to crack down on price gouging — while laws against raising prices during times of crisis currently exist in about two-thirds of the US, the rules are highly inconsistent from state to state. Amazon can kick off as many bad sellers as it can for violating its own policies, but there are often few subsequent legal consequences to help regulate inflated prices.

A federal law, Amazon says, would ensure that there are “no gaps in protection for consumers” and would help Amazon and other retailers “more effectively prevent bad actors and ensure fair prices.”


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