Amazon has come under fire after three of its sellers were charged with price gouging hand sanitiser by New York’s attorney general.
Three third-party sellers have been fined more than $52,000 in penalties and forced to refund customers nearly $23,000 after being found to have sold thousands of units of hand sanitiser at “grossly” inflated prices.
One seller, Northwest-Lux, is understood to have sold 1168 two-litre bottles of Purell hand sanitiser, which usually retail for between $20 and $35, for between $79.99 and $129.99 from March 1 to March 6.
Northwest-Lux will now be called to pay $20,000 to the state in penalties, alongside over $5700 in refunds to customers.
Another seller, Mobile Rush, sold over 3000 units of hand sanitiser at similarly inflated prices between February 10 and March 11, and will now be fined $17,500 and forced to pay back $9113 in restitution to consumers.
The seller was found to be flogging eight-ounce bottles of Germ-X hand sanitiser, which usually sell for no more than $3, for between $19.99 and $29.99.
EMC, a third Amazon seller, was also fined $15,000 and forced to pay $8114 in restitution fees after also selling 1184 units at exorbitant prices.
“Price gouging on necessary consumer supplies during an unprecedented public health emergency is absolutely unconscionable and will not be tolerated,” New York attorney general Letitia James said.
“Instead of ensuring individuals could protect themselves from the coronavirus, these businesses operated with dirty hands by charging exorbitant prices on hand sanitizer and other cleansing products.
“My office will continue to clean up this unlawful practice by using all of the tools at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this pandemic.”
This is not the first time Amazon has been reprimanded for allowing bad actors to price-gouge on its platform.
In March as the pandemic was first starting to take hold, US Senator Edward Markey called on Amazon to do more to “prevent profiteering on sales of items such as hand-sanitizer and surgical masks”.
He added: “Internet-based retailers such as Amazon.com 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.”
In response Amazon said it had removed tens of thousands of items which it suspected of price gouging, alongside one million items making false medical claims about their ability to prevent the spread of the virus.