AG Jeff Landry warns major retailers online marketplaces are not exempt from price gouging laws

AG Jeff Landry warns major retailers online marketplaces are not exempt from price gouging laws
Shoppers are encouraged not to hoard items unnecessarily when they find them available. (Source: WDAM)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is joining a coalition of attorneys general from 31 other states and one U.S. territory in urging major online retailers in doing a more rigorous job of monitoring their price gouging practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Landry says he and his fellow attorneys general sent letters to Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist.

“We want the business community and American consumers to know that we endeavor to balance the twin imperatives of commerce and consumer protection in the marketplace,” Landry said in the letters to the major companies. “And, while we appreciate reports of the efforts made by platforms and online retailers to crack down on price gouging as the American community faces an unprecedented public health crisis, we are calling on you to do more at a time that requires national unity.”

The letters list several examples of price-gouging on these marketplace platforms, all of which took place only in March. On Craigslist, a two-liter bottle of hand sanitizer was being sold for $250. On Facebook Marketplace, an eight-ounce bottle was being sold for $40; and on eBay, packs of face masks were being sold for $40 and $50.

The attorney general coalition is asking the companies to make changes to protect consumers from price gouging including:

1. Set policies and enforce restrictions on unconscionable price gouging during emergencies: Online retail platforms should prevent unconscionable price increases from occurring by creating and enforcing strong policies that prevent sellers from deviating in any significant way from the product’s price before an emergency. Such policies should examine historical seller prices, and the price offered by other sellers of the same or similar products, to identify and eliminate price gouging.

2. Trigger price gouging protections prior to an emergency declaration, such as when your systems detect conditions like pending weather events or future possible health risks.

3. Implement a complaint portal for consumers to report potential price gouging.

Landry says he encourages consumers to report suspected price gouging to their local law enforcement as, in certain situations, price gouging is a crime. He also says you file a complaint with his office as you may be able to seek a civil penalty and civil restitution against an offender of price gouging.

You can file a complaint online by clicking here.

The attorney general coalition is made of the attorneys general from Connecticut, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico.

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