Amazon sellers fined for abusing price of coronavirus hand sanitizer

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Three Amazon sellers have been fined by New York Attorney General Letitia James after being discovered to be a price-eating hand sanitizer.Between February and March, third-party merchants Mobile Rush, EMC Group, and Northwest-Lux sold more than 1,000 units of hand sanitizer on the Amazon marketplace “at prices well above the price at which identical or similar products were sold. readily available ”elsewhere, the New York attorney general’s office said on Tuesday.

For example, Northwest-Lux charged Amazon buyers $ 79.99 to $ 129.99 for 2-liter bottles of Purell, which typically cost between $ 20.87 and $ 35.00, the office said. Attorney General. In another case, Mobile Rush charged consumers $ 19.99 to $ 29.99 for single 8-ounce bottles of Germ-X ​​hand sanitizer, which is higher than their standard price of $ 1 to $ 3. $.

It comes as Amazon and other retailers have struggled to curb third-party sellers who overcharged for products that have grown in demand during the pandemic. Vendors have inflated the prices of hand sanitizers, face masks and hazmat protective suits, among other products. In March, CNBC found examples of face masks selling for up to $ 195.

U.S. senators and attorneys general have called on the company to do more to curb rising prices for coronaviruses. A group of 33 attorneys general urged Amazon to adopt strong policies to deter price abuse.

Amazon said it removed more than a million high-priced offers and suspended tens of thousands of sellers for attempted price fraud. The company also expressed support for a federal predatory pricing law.

As part of the crackdown led by the Attorney General’s office, sellers will pay New York State more than $ 52,000 in penalties and reimburse consumers nearly $ 23,000 for overcharging for hand sanitizer during the pandemic. The actions against third-party sellers are part of its broader investigation into predatory pricing during the Covid-19 pandemic, the office said.

“Instead of ensuring that individuals could protect themselves from the coronavirus, these companies were operating with dirty hands by charging exorbitant prices on hand sanitizer and other cleaning products,” James said in a statement. “My office will continue to eliminate this illegal practice by using all the tools at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this pandemic. ”

An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement that the company does not allow price gouging in its store. They added that the company continues to report bad actors to law enforcement, remove offers and suspend the sale of accounts that violate its policies.

“We are grateful that the New York attorney general’s office has continued to pursue this case and hold these bad actors accountable,” the spokesperson said.

Mobile Rush, EMC Group and Northwest-Lux did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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