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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Texas Lawmakers Demand Amazon and Others Stop Price Gouging By Vendors

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2020 at 9:54 AM

click to enlarge PEXELS / SUNYU KIM
  • Pexels / Sunyu Kim
Nine Texas legislators have asked Amazon and other top online marketplaces to crack down on price gouging that's exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 350 lawmakers representing 45 states joined consumer watchdog group TexPIRG Education Fund in sending a letter urging Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart to take immediate steps to ensure vendors aren't ripping off the public. Democratic Texas Rep. Ina Minjarez of San Antonio was among those who signed.

“We believe you have an ethical obligation and patriotic duty to help your fellow citizens in this time of need by doing everything in your power to stop price gouging in real-time,” the letter reads.

Two weeks prior, 33 attorneys general sent a similar letter to the same companies.

A recent study by the national PIRG Education Fund found that Amazon's existing monitoring efforts aren't stopping egregious price hikes. The cost of most hand sanitizers and masks on the platform rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average, according to the analysis.

The study also found additional examples of online price gouging, including:
  • A digital thermometer for $27 that had an average price of $17.99 over the past 180 days.
  • Three boxes of 20 N95 masks for $239 or nearly $4 per mask, compared to a normal price of $1 per item.
  • Toilet paper priced at $98 for a box of multiple rolls.
The letter recommends Amazon and the rest set new policies and enforce price gouging restrictions both during emergencies and non-emergency periods. It also asks the companies to develop fair pricing pages where consumers can report price gouging incidents directly.

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