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U.S. AGs warns Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist about pandemic profiteering

Christian Fernsby |
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has joined a bipartisan group of 32 attorneys general from across the country in warning Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist that they are not exempt from their states’ legal restrictions on price-gouging and urging them to monitor more rigorously price-gouging practices by online sellers that use their services.

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Under Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-10, price-gouging on essential items is illegal in Minnesota for the duration of the coronavirus peacetime emergency.

Attorney General Ellison’s office has the authority to enforce the ban on pandemic profiteering on these items.

Unlike 34 other states, three territories, and the District of Columbia, Minnesota does not have a law that bans price-gouging.

In joint letters to those retailers, Attorney General Ellison and the other attorneys general write, “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 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.”

“Now more than ever, my job is to help Minnesotans afford their lives — but pandemic profiteering, including online, is making that harder.

“The major online retailers have a responsibility to put an end to it,” Attorney General Ellison said.

“The vast majority of retailers who are selling essential items are doing the right thing by Minnesotans right now — and their workers are our heroes.

“But if you’re profiteering off the pandemic, my office and I are coming after you.”

The letter cites several examples of price-gouging on these marketplace platforms that took place after the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic on January 30:

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;

On Amazon, the price of more than half of all hand sanitizers and face masks spiked more than 50 percent.

The bipartisan letters that Attorney General Ellison joined were co-led by the attorneys general of Connecticut, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, and signed by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

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