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Amazon cracks down on COVID-19 price gouging

Marielle Segarra Mar 3, 2020
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Some third-party sellers have been charging hundreds of dollars for a couple small bottles of hand sanitizer or a box of protective face masks. Leon Neal/Getty Images
COVID-19

Amazon cracks down on COVID-19 price gouging

Marielle Segarra Mar 3, 2020
Some third-party sellers have been charging hundreds of dollars for a couple small bottles of hand sanitizer or a box of protective face masks. Leon Neal/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Amazon is cracking down on third-party merchants for selling coronavirus-related products at inflated prices. The company says it has recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of listings for such products, like face masks and hand sanitizer.

“There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” the company said in a statement.

On Amazon, some third-party sellers have been charging hundreds of dollars for a couple small bottles of hand sanitizer or a box of protective face masks.

Dana Radcliffe, who teaches business ethics at Cornell, said Amazon was smart to ban these listings — because customers do not like price gouging.

“People have a very strong reaction to it,” he said. “They feel that they’re being taken unfair advantage of. So that’s going to reflect upon the platform.”

Many economists, however, say it’s a bad idea to set rules around price gouging, like limiting price hikes during a public health crisis or a hurricane.

That’s because when prices are low it’s easier for people to hoard.

“You’ll see people loading up their carts with far more than they would if the price were higher, and the consequence […] is that people [who] get to the store later aren’t able to buy anything,” said Michael Salinger, a professor of economics at the Boston University Questrom School of Business.

It is hard to say exactly what qualifies as price gouging, versus simple supply and demand. And it’s hard for companies like Amazon to draw the line.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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