Attorney General Balderas Warns Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Craigslist, Walmart: Online Marketplaces Aren’t Exempt from Price Gouging Laws

March 25, 2020
Contact: Matt Baca — (505) 270-7148

Santa Fe, NM― Today, Attorney General Balderas led a coalition of 32 attorneys general,
urging Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Walmart, and Craigslist to more rigorously monitor price
gouging practices by online sellers using their services.
“Increasing prices on necessities like medical supplies, hand sanitizer, masks, and other items
because people are in fear of the coronavirus is simply unconscionable,” Balderas said.
“Businesses must exercise more thorough oversight to stop anyone using their platforms from
price gouging, and anyone increasing prices in order to illegally profit from this emergency will
be prosecuted.”
In the letter, the attorneys general emphasize: “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,” said the Attorneys General in their letter. “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 letter lists 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 attorneys general recommend several changes to protect consumers from price gouging:
• 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.
• Trigger price gouging protections prior to an emergency declaration, such as when
your systems detect conditions like pending weather events or future possible health
• Implement a complaint portal for consumers to report potential price gouging.
Attorney General Balderas was joined by attorneys general in California, Colorado, Connecticut,
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, Pennsylvania Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont,
Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico.