Markey questions Amazon on price gouging due to coronavirus

Markey questions Amazon on price gouging due to coronavirus

Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBiden's FDA nominee advances through key Senate committee Overnight Energy & Environment — Manchin raises hopes on climate spending Warren, Democrats ask federal government to resume tracking breakthrough cases MORE (D-Mass.) is asking Amazon for answers on price gouging on its platform amid reports of some items facing up to 2,000 percent markups as the coronavirus spreads globally. 

Markey, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosFree speech, Whole Foods, and the endangered apolitical workplace Space: One important thing that might retain bipartisan focus Virtual realities may solve Fermi's paradox about extraterrestrials MORE on Wednesday calling on the company to respond to the reported price gouging on items such as masks and hand sanitizer. 

“No one should be allowed to reap a windfall from fear and human suffering,” Markey wrote. “Internet-based retailers such as have a particular responsibility to guard against price gouging in current circumstances as consumers — who are finding the shelves of local brick-and-mortar stores bare, and who may wish to avoid venturing into crowded stores and shopping malls — turn to the internet.”


An Amazon spokesperson told The Hill the company is monitoring its online store and removing offers for attempted price gouging. 

“We agree with Senator Markey—there is no place for price gouging on Amazon and that’s why our teams are monitoring our store 24/7 and have already removed tens of thousands of offers for attempted price gouging,” the spokesperson said. “We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to take advantage of this global health crisis and, in addition to removing these offers, we are terminating accounts.”

Markey wrote that Amazon took “appropriate first steps” last week in response to price gouging when it announced it removed tens of thousands of listings and reiterated sellers must comply with its Fair Pricing Policy.

But reports of price gouging have continued, he added.

Markey’s letter cited a Financial Times report from Tuesday that said a pack of 24 two-ounce bottles of Purell hand sanitizer that typically sold for less than $10 was listed at $400. The Times also reported a pack of 20 masks typically selling for $14.99 was listed at $387. 

Markey’s letter asked Amazon to explain how it determines whether coronavirus-based price gouging is occurring on its platform and at what level the platform deems an item is considered unfairly priced. 

He also asked the online retailer to reveal how many price gouging warnings Amazon issued to sellers and how many listings the site has removed or suspended as well as what additional resources Amazon is devoting to ensure coronavirus-based price gouging is not occurring on its platform. 

The letter calls for Amazon to respond by March 18.