Utah Attorney General joins forces with online marketplace giants to stop price gouging

Composite image using stock photos, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Facebook, Amazon and other online marketplace companies have joined forces with the Utah Attorney General’s Office to sift out third party sellers who are spiking up the prices of COVID-19-related items and taking advantage of Utahns across the beehive state.

Composite image using stock photos, St. George News

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced last week that online marketplaces, including Amazon, Facebook, eBay, and KSL Classifieds, have formed a partnership aimed at monitoring and combating price gouging related to the pandemic, according to a statement released by the agency last week.

While these online marketplaces do sell some products directly to the consumers, they also provide a forum for third-party sellers to sell products, a vast majority of which provide convenient and affordable merchandise.

However, as with anything else, he said, there are also “isolated incidents” in which some try to profit off the fear and uncertainty that come in times of crisis. A 2-liter bottle of hand sanitizer listed at $250 on Craigslist; an 8-ounce bottle on Facebook for $40; and face masks being sold for as much as $50 on eBay among them. In Washington County, an extra-large roll of Charmin toilet paper was being sold for $40 per roll on Facebook, according to a recent email received by St. George News.

To address the complaints, the attorneys general demanded that policies on price gouging not only be implemented by the online marketplace companies — but also enforced. These policies would also put into effect trigger points prior to emergency declarations, the statement said.

Composite image using stock photos, St. George News

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

Their efforts have resulted in the removal of hundreds of thousands of high-priced offers on in-demand supplies from its online stores and millions of products that make unsupported claims about COVID-19.

Moreover, they have suspended thousands of accounts of sellers who have engaged in price gouging.

“We appreciate the proactive approach of KSL Classifieds, Amazon, Facebook and eBay during this crisis,” Reyes said in the news release.

To bolster the effort, online companies will provide market analysis and other aid to help identify individuals who are using online venues to spike prices on COVID-19-related items in Utah. This is in addition to the information the companies are already providing to the Division of Consumer Protection about their current efforts to combat price gouging and profiteering on their site.

Reyes also said with this partnership in place, “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.”

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection said it will take complaints about price gouging and scams. Anyone with information can call 801-530-6601 or 1-800-721-7233, or online at consumerprotection.utah.gov.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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