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State AGs Call on Facebook, Amazon, Walmart, eBay to Do More to Stop Price Gouging

Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), Walmart (NYSE: WMT), Craigslist, and other online marketplaces are facing calls from 33 state attorneys general to reign in price gouging on their platforms amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In letters to the companies and their CEOs, the AGs called on them to more "rigorously" monitor price gouging and laid out ways to do it.  

Mom putting hand sanitizer on her child.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

The attorney generals want the online marketplace operators to set policies and enforce restrictions on price gouging during emergencies, set off price gouging protections before an emergency is declared, and create complaint portals for customers to report artificial price hikes. 

"Increasing prices on necessities like medical supplies, hand sanitizer, masks, and other items because people are in fear of the coronavirus is simply unconscionable," wrote New Mexico State AG Hector Balderas. "Businesses must exercise more thorough oversight to stop anyone using their platforms from price gouging, and anyone increasing prices in order to illegally profit from this emergency will be prosecuted." 

The AGs said they appreciate the efforts of the part of the online marketplaces but that they aren't enough. The AGs laid out several examples of price gouging on the platforms, including a two-liter bottle of hand sanitizer being sold on Craigslist for $250 and an eight-ounce bottle going for $40 on Facebook. eBay's platform was hawking packs of face masks for between $40 and $50. 

"While many of these items have since been removed, they were available for sale, and consumers are harmed when they purchase heavily marked-up products," wrote the AGs. 

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Donna Fuscaldo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends eBay and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $18 calls on eBay and short January 2021 $37 calls on eBay. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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