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Put a stop to coronavirus price gouging, state AGs tell Amazon, Facebook and others

The attorneys general are calling for more action to combat price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic.

Erin Carson
Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
Erin Carson covered internet culture, online dating and the weird ways tech and science are changing your life.
Expertise Erin has been a tech reporter for almost 10 years. Her reporting has taken her from the Johnson Space Center to San Diego Comic-Con's famous Hall H. Credentials She has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
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Items like hand sanitizer can be the target of price gouging. 

Angela Lang/CNET
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Thirty-four state attorneys general are calling on companies like Amazon, Craigslist, Facebook, eBay and Walmart to take a harder stance against price gouging amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The letters to each company cite specific examples, like a Craigslist ad for a 2-liter bottle of Purell Advanced hand sanitizer with a $250 price tag. While the attorneys general acknowledge that these companies have taken steps toward curtailing price gouging, the latter calls for further action.

"When consumers cannot get what they need to protect their homes and loved ones -- or in this case, help prevent the spread of the virus-- consumers suffer not only economic harm, but serious health consequences as well," the letter reads.

Specifically, the letter lists three steps companies can take including setting policies and restrictions around price gouging, triggering those protections ahead of an emergency declaration and creating and maintaining a "fair pricing" page or portal. 

"eBay is taking significant measures to block or quickly remove items on our marketplace that make false health claims. We are making every effort to ensure that anyone who sells on our platform follows local laws and eBay policies," eBay said in a statement. 

Along those lines, Amazon described its efforts against price gouging in a blog post Monday titled "Price gouging has no place in our stores."

Facebook also noted steps it's taken: "Since COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency, Facebook has removed millions of ads and commerce listings for the sale of masks, hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes and COVID-19 test kits. While enforcement is not perfect, we have put several automated detection mechanisms in place to block or remove this material from our platform," said Daniel Roberts, a Facebook spokesman in a statement. 

Craigslist and Walmart didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Watch this: Coronavirus lockdown: Why social distancing saves lives