PA Attorney General Shapiro Wants Online Retailers To End Price Gouging

A two-liter bottle of hand sanitizer was being sold for $250 on Ebay

Andrew Limberg
March 25, 2020 - 1:30 pm
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro

© Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record via Imagn Content Services, LLC

HARRISBURG (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - Attorney General Josh Shapiro along with other Attorneys General, have issued a letter that retailers Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Walmart and Craigslist “more rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers using their services.”

“Ripping off consumers by jacking up prices in the middle of a public emergency is against the law and online resellers like Amazon must join in this fight,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro in his letter. “These companies form the backbone of online retail and have an obligation to stop illegal price gouging now and put strong practices into place to stop it from happening in the future.”

Some examples pointed out in the letter include someone on Craigslist selling a two-liter bottle of hand sanitizer for $250, on Ebay face masks were being sold for up to $50 and an eight-ounce bottle of sanitizer was being sold on Facebook Marketplace for $40.

“Americans are already worried about their health and the health of their loved ones during this pandemic. They shouldn’t also have to worry about being ripped off on the critical supplies they need to get through it,” said Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog. “We’re grateful for the leadership of Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro and 33 Attorneys General who joined him in calling for more robust protections on these online marketplaces during this crisis.”

Shapiro and in colleagues recommended the following changes.

  •  Set policies and enforce restrictions on unconscionable price gouging during emergencies: Online retail platforms should prevent unconscionable price increases from occurring by creating and enforcing strong policies that prevent sellers from deviating in any significant way from the product’s price before an emergency. Such policies should examine historical seller prices, and the price offered by other sellers of the same or similar products, to identify and eliminate price gouging.
  • Trigger price gouging protections prior to an emergency declaration, such as when your systems detect conditions like pending weather events or future possible health risks.
  • Implement a complaint portal for consumers to report potential price gouging.


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