NewsNational News


33 State Attorneys General warn online marketplaces not exempt from price gouging laws

Posted at 6:32 PM, Mar 26, 2020

BATON ROUGE, LA - Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has joined with 32 of his fellow state attorneys general in urging Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Walmart, and Craigslist to more rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers using their services.

"We want the business community and American consumers to know that we endeavor to balance the twin imperatives of commerce and consumer protection in the marketplace," said General Landry and his colleagues in letters to the retail giants. "And, while we appreciate reports of the efforts made by platforms and online retailers to crack down on price gouging as the American community faces an unprecedented public health crisis, we are calling on you to do more at a time that requires national unity."

The letters list several examples of price-gouging on these marketplace platforms, all of which took place only in March: on Craigslist, a two-liter bottle of hand sanitizer was being sold for $250; on Facebook Marketplace, an eight-ounce bottle was being sold for $40; and on Ebay, packs of face masks were being sold for $40 and $50.

General Landry and the attorney general coalition recommended changes to protect consumers from price gouging:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Implement a complaint portal for consumers to report potential price gouging.

General Landry continues to encourage consumers to report suspected price gouging to their local law enforcement as, in certain situations, price gouging is a crime. Additionally, he asks that consumer disputes be filed with his office as they may be able to seek a civil penalty and civil restitution against an offender. In both, General Landry encourages consumers to provide specific evidence supporting the complaint, including advertisements and receipts of the product or service.

Joining the Louisiana AG on this effort were the attorneys general from Connecticut, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico.