The Internet retail giant Amazon has reportedly resorted to price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed 196, 254 people.
Public Citizen reports that “15 essential products that have been sold by Amazon during that COVID-19 pandemic with markups over the recent price on Amazon.com or other national retailers ranging from 76% to more than 1,000%, and 10 products sold on Amazon by third-party sellers during the same period with markups ranging from 225% to 941%. Notably, some state price gouging laws prohibit price increases of as little as 10%.”
Disposable face masks that sold for $40 instead of $4. Amazon has blamed third-party sellers for the price gouging, but continued to allow third-party sellers to increase their prices, notes Public Citizen.
Alex Harman, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen, told Democracy Now how egregious the price gouging is:
When this first started, there was a lot of talk about — from Amazon and from others, about third-party sellers taking advantage and gouging. We heard about hand sanitizer, toilet paper, other things. And then, so we started looking at this to give people guidance on how they could protect themselves, how they could avoid it.
And it became very clear very quickly that, yes, third-party sellers are still doing this, despite Amazon’s claims of closing those accounts and removing those products, but Amazon itself is also doing this. And the distinction is, on the website, when a third-party seller is selling, it says “sold by” that seller, and when it’s Amazon selling, it says “sold by Amazon.” And so we focused on products that were sold by Amazon that had significant price increases.
And it’s very important to point out, the products we’re talking about — and it’s a sample of products — are deemed essential, and, that is, under price gouging statutes, are defined as during an emergency, and then specific products that are essential to that emergency. So, you’re going to have water during a hurricane or during a wildfire, and in this case, hand sanitizer or PPE-type products and toilet paper, we learned.