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Amazon calls for federal price gouging law amid coronavirus

Such a law would target "grossly excessive" increases in prices.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
Erin Carson covered internet culture, online dating and the weird ways tech and science are changing your life.
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Amazon wants to prevents price gouging on items like face masks. 

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Amazon is making the case for a federal price gouging law

In a blog post Wednesday, Brian Huseman, who oversees public policy for the Americas at Amazon, said it isn't enough for individual states to have their own rules about drastic rises in prices for in-demand goods (like hand sanitizer) during emergencies. 

"While each state is unique and has the ability to enact individual legislative price gouging triggers and remedies, a federal price gouging law would ensure that there are no gaps in protection for consumers," Huseman wrote, noting that only about two-thirds of states in the US prohibit price gouging. 

He also suggested that price gouging be defined as "unconscionable or grossly excessive or unconscionably excessive," rather than using specific percentages like 10% to 25%.

"We want to avoid the $400 bottle of Purell for sale right after an emergency goes into effect, while not punishing unavoidable price increases that emergencies can cause, especially as supply chains are disrupted," he wrote. 

The blog post comes as online retailers and marketplaces like Amazon have been trying to bat down sellers charging high prices for items like face masks and hand sanitizer amid the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon says it's suspended almost 4,000 seller accounts for violating its fair-pricing policies. In March, 34 state attorneys general called on Amazon, Walmart and others to take a harder stance on price gouging.

See also: Where to find household goods when Amazon, Walmart and others are out of stock

Watch this: Best practices for safe shopping, delivery and takeout in the age of coronavirus