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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Attorney General Donovan Urges Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Walmart & Craigslist: Stop Price-Gouging By Online Sellers

March 25, 2020

Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171

Attorney General T.J. Donovan today issued a letter to Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist urging the businesses to more rigorously monitor price-gouging practices by online sellers using their services. Attorney General Donovan, who was joined by 32 attorneys general from across the U.S., is calling on the online retailers and platforms to make several changes to stop price gouging in real-time. Proposed changes include setting policies and enforcing restrictions on unconscionable price gouging during times of emergency as well as implementing consumer complaint portals.

“No consumer should have to worry about being ripped off during a public health crisis,” said Attorney General T.J. Donovan. “While we work to balance commerce with consumer protection during this time of crisis, we are calling on the business community to do their part and take action to stop price gouging in real-time.”

Today’s letter lists several examples of price gouging on these marketplace platforms, all of which took place in March: on Craigslist, a two-liter bottle of hand sanitizer was being sold for $250; on Facebook Marketplace, an eight-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer was being sold for $40; and on eBay, packs of face masks were being sold for $40 and $50.

The letter recommends several changes to protect consumers from price gouging, including (1) setting policies and enforcing restrictions on unconscionable price gouging during emergencies; (2) triggering price gouging protections prior to an emergency declaration; and (3) implementing complaint portals for consumers to report potential price gouging.

Price gouging is illegal in Vermont under the Consumer Protection Act, which protects both individuals and Vermont businesses when they are in the role of consumers, such as buying hand sanitizer or bleach wipes for use at their business. Reports of potential price gouging can be made by contacting the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program at 800-649-2424 or AGO.CAP@vermont.gov.

Copies of today’s letter can be found here.

Last modified: March 25, 2020