Markey Presses Amazon to Better Police Coronavirus-Related Price Gouging

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is calling on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to better police his online marketplace for coronavirus-related price gouging. 

Markey cites reports of massive markups on face masks and hand sanitizer, like a normally $10 box of sanitizer priced at $400. 

One online seller was asking $80 for two eight-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer

One online seller was asking $80 for two eight-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer

He noted in a letter to Bezos Wednesday (March 4) that Amazon had taken steps last week to remove thousands of such posts per its fair pricing policy, but the senator suggested more needed to be done. "[C]ontinued reports of price gouging and a lack of transparency have left consumers exposed to unfair trade practices," Markey said. 

Markey suggested that online retailers have a particular responsibility to guard against gouging as consumers "who are finding the shelves of local brick-and-mortar stores bare, and who may wish to avoid venturing into crowded stores and shopping malls, turn to the internet.” 

The senator wants answers to the following questions by March 18: 

1. "How does Amazon determine whether coronavirus-based price gouging is occurring on its platform? 

2. "At what level is an item considered unfairly priced?

3. "How many price-gouging warnings has Amazon issued to sellers seeking to capitalize on the coronavirus? How many listings has Amazon removed or suspended?

4. "What additional resources is Amazon devoting to ensuring that coronavirus-based price gouging is not occurring on its platform?"

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.