What to do if you think you’re a victim of coronavirus price gouging

Now that the State of California has declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus, the Attorney General wants consumers to know price gouging is illegal.

Xavier Becerra is asking for photos, screenshots, something to show what items like hand sanitizers would typically cost and if you actually bought items that were overinflated, the names of the sellers.  

Amazon claims it’s cracking down on practices from what they call “bad actors.” But Rob Garett of Costa Mesa says he found items on Amazon with prices that could only be called outrageous.

For example, the prices he found for hand sanitizer.

“Two pack for $99, and I saw a small little travel size for $999, saw another for $575, just ridiculous prices", Rob told me via Skype. 

He called Amazon to complain about the crazy high prices and the woman he talked to blamed third party sellers, but Rob pointed out, “but it’s still Amazon.”

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We asked Amazon to give us an explanation for the high prices. 

The company sent us this statement: “There is no place for price gouging on Amazon. We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers. We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.” 

Perhaps, but even if the more outrageously priced items were “currently unavailable” you could still find a two pack of Lysol Disinfecting Spray for more than three times the listed price at Walmart. The problem is finding the items in any store. 

He did manage to snag 23 disinfecting wipes in three packs at a local retailer for a non-inflated price. He bought them at the direction of his boss, and he says that’s still not enough.

”He wants all the door handles wiped down, all the gym equipment wiped down, all the counters, he wants the employees to be wiping their hands with them; when they come to work after and before they eat.” 

Meantime, Becerra says if the state prosecutes sellers who are raising their prices beyond the legal 10%, they could face jail time of a year and fines of $2,500 per each violation.