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Utah attorney general urges major online retailers to stop 'unfairness of price gouging'

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Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes urged major online retailers Wednesday to crackdown on price gouging practices by sellers using their services. (Photo: KUTV)

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes warned major online retailers Wednesday to crackdown on price gouging practices by sellers using their services.

The letter, sent by 33 attorneys general from across the nation, was sent to Amazon, Facebook, eBay Craigslist and Walmart.

The letter urges companies to focus on sellers who may be taking advantage of customers during the coronavirus outbreak and economic turmoil, according to a press release.

RELATED: Amazon suspends more than 3,900 selling accounts over coronavirus price gouging

“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,” the letter states. “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,” Reyes stated in a press release.

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.”

To help protect consumers, the attorneys general recommend several changes to major online retailers:

  • 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.

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection is currently working to investigate price gouging complaints. To report price gouging, call their office at 801-530-6601 or 1-800-721-7233, or visit them online at consumerprotection.utah.gov.

The letter was co-led with by attorneys general in Connecticut, New Mexico, and Vermont, in addition to signatures from the 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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