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Attorney General Reyes Announces Partnership to Monitor and Combat Coronavirus Price Gouging

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP TO MONITOR AND COMBAT CORONAVIRUS PRICE GOUGING
KSL Classifieds, Amazon, eBay, Facebook Agree to Partner with Utah


SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and online marketplaces KSL Classifieds, Amazon, eBay and Facebook are announcing a partnership aimed at monitoring and combating price gouging related to COVID-19. The Attorney General’s Office will partner with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and representatives from KSL Classifieds, Amazon, eBay and Facebook to communicate regularly about consumer complaints and potential price gouging by third-party sellers on their online marketplaces. The companies will also provide market analysis and other aid to help identify individuals who are using the online marketplaces in Utah to spike prices on COVID-19-related items. 
 
“We appreciate the proactive approach of KSL Classifieds, Amazon, Facebook and eBay during this crisis,” said Attorney General Reyes. “They came to us with possible price gouging offenders early in this pandemic. We have asked online companies to be vigilant about this issue and want to acknowledge those companies who have answered the call.”
 
“We are proud to announce a partnership with these companies to protect all Utah citizens from fraud and price gouging. Combating the virus, while ensuring that our people are safe and protected, is a total team effort,” said Attorney General Reyes. “With this partnership, those who engage in price gouging or scams should be warned that the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Division of Consumer Protection are working with online marketplaces and will take action wherever possible to protect Utahns.”
 
“We take any kind of price gouging or potentially illegal activity very seriously on our marketplace,” said Eric Bright, Chief Marketing Officer of KSL Classifieds. “We’re constantly monitoring for suspicious activity and are proud to cooperate with the Attorney General and the Division of Consumer Protection on egregious cases.”
 
With this partnership:

  • The lines of communication have been opened, and the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Division of Consumer Protection will send consumer complaints related to online marketplace sellers in Utah directly to KSL Classifieds, Amazon, eBay and Facebook for them to further investigate.
  • KSL Classifieds, Amazon, eBay and Facebook are currently analyzing sales data to identify any bad actors in Utah who are trying to profiteer off the health and safety of Utah citizens. The companies will be sharing that information with the Division of Consumer Protection and the Utah Attorney General’s Office for potential legal action.

The companies have also proactively provided information to the Division of Consumer Protection about their current efforts to combat price gouging and profiteering on their site. While these online marketplaces do sell some products directly to the consumers, they also provide a forum for third-party sellers to sell products. There are certainly price fluctuations in times of crisis, and the vast majority of these sellers provide convenient and affordable products. But as with any third-party seller forum, there are isolated incidents where some try to profit off the fear and uncertainty that come with times of crisis. 

KSL Classifieds, Amazon, eBay and Facebook already have 24/7 monitoring measures in place to combat and remediate these situations, but in light of the coronavirus pandemic, they have enhanced their systems by including additional manual measures, pulling down products that are out of line, and suspending the accounts of those who are exhibiting repeated bad behavior.

As a result, KSL Classifieds, Amazon, eBay and Facebook together have removed hundreds of thousands of high-priced offers on in-demand supplies from its stores and millions of products that make unsupported claims about COVID-19. They have also suspended thousands of accounts of sellers who have engaged in price gouging.

Attorney General Reyes recently sent several consumer alerts relating to COVID-19 scams and medical supply chain price gouging.

Our friends at The Utah Division of Consumer Protection are on the front in this situation. The Utah Attorney General’s Office thanks them for their hard work on both price gouging and scams. They are working hard to investigate complaints. If you notice incidents of price gouging, please call their office at 801-530-6601 or 1-800-721-7233, or visit them online at consumerprotection.utah.gov.

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Attorney General Reyes Warns Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Craigslist, Walmart: Online Marketplaces Are Not Exempt From Price Gouging Laws

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 25, 2020


ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES WARNS AMAZON, FACEBOOK, EBAY, CRAIGSLIST, WALMART: ONLINE MARKETPLACES ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM PRICE GOUGING LAWS


SALT LAKE CITY — Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes urged Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist to more rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers using their services. Attorney General Reyes is one of 33 Attorneys General, led by attorneys general in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Vermont, who sent the letter to urge the companies to focus on sellers who are potentially taking advantage of consumers in this time of crisis.

Our friends at The Utah Division of Consumer Protection are on the front lines in this situation. The Utah Attorney General’s Office thanks them for their hard work on both price gouging and scams. They are working hard to investigate complaints. If you notice incidents of price gouging, please call their office at 801-530-6601 or 1-800-721-7233, or visit them online at consumerprotection.utah.gov.

From the letter:

“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 said. “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 reality is that we’re all in this Coronavirus crisis together,” said Attorney General Reyes. “To hoard and then attempt to profit from the sale of products that people need like food, baby formula, toiletries, medicine, paper products, etc. is offensive and, in Utah, also illegal.” 
 
Reyes continued: “Sadly, some people will exploit the struggle of their neighbors. We are urging online marketplace companies to help us correct the unfairness of price gouging wherever possible.”

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


This letter was co-led with the Offices of Attorneys General from Connecticut, New Mexico, and Vermont, in addition to signatures from the Offices of Attorneys General in California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico. 

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NOTES

  1. Read the letter sent by the 33 attorneys general to Amazon here.
  2. Read the letter sent by the 33 attorneys general to Craigslist here.
  3. Read the letter sent by the 33 attorneys general to eBay here.
  4. Read the letter sent by the 33 attorneys general to Walmart here
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