Amazon plans to prosecute sellers for price gouging during coronavirus outbreak

It says it's taken down hundreds of thousands of highly priced products.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
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Amazon is cracking down on price gouging during the spread of COVID-19.

Ina Fassbender/Getty Images

Amazon is cracking down on sellers who are price gouging on items like hand sanitizer and face masks during the spread of the coronavirus. In a response to a Wednesday letter from Sen. Edward J. Markey that warned Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about price inflations, VP of Amazon Public Policy Brian Huseman wrote that the company is working with multiple state attorneys general to prosecute "the worst offenders."

Amazon said it's monitoring the site, "aggressively enforcing" its policy and has taken down hundreds of thousands of high-priced products and suspended thousands of accounts. The company has also said it's removed "millions" of products claiming to cure COVID-19.

"There is no place for price gouging on Amazon, and we will not tolerate attempts by bad actors to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis," says the letter, provided to CNET by Amazon via email and reported earlier Friday by Reuters. "It is unconscionable."

On Feb. 26, Amazon warned its sellers about price gouging. Earlier Friday, eBay banned the sale of face masks and hand sanitizers amid price-gouging concerns. 

On March 4, New York City tweeted that it would begin issuing fines "to any store found price gouging supplies." You can call 311 to report any price gouging. 

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has warned stores against jacking up pricing, saying this week that "we are taking formal investigative actions."

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