Online retailers such as Amazon have been plagued by the increase driven prices of key commodities such as hand sanitizer and N95 masks during the COVID-19 pandemic,media outlet The Verge reported. Amazon has asked the U.S. Congress to pass a law that would outlaw price hikes during the country’s crisis.
In an open letter released by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, the company highlighted its efforts to combat price hikes. So far, Amazon says it has removed a list of 500,000 price-gouging items from its online stores and closed 4,000 seller accounts in U.S. stores alone on the grounds that it violated fair pricing policies. And as Jeff Bezos, the company’s CEO, pointed out in a letter to investors, Amazon has set up a dedicated channel of communication for state attorneys general to directly pass on price-gouging complaints.
But Amazon says it can only do so on its own. The company says varying standards vary from state to state, limiting its ability to crack down on price hikes — although about two-thirds of u.S. states currently have laws prohibiting price hikes in times of crisis, but state rules are highly inconsistent. Amazon can crack down on as many bad sellers as possible for violating its policies, but often with few follow-up legal consequences to help regulate prices.
Amazon said a federal law would ensure “no loopholes in consumer protection” and would help Amazon and other retailers “more effectively prevent bad actors and ensure fair prices.”
“When the federal government declares a public health crisis or a national emergency, it should immediately activate the price-raising law, which would leave businesses and law enforcement agencies without any room for doubt,” Amazon said. It should also establish clear price criteria, define what and what the law covers, and ensure strong enforcement powers. “