Connecticut Attorney General William Tong has sent letters to five of the nation’s leading online retail platforms – Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart – urging them to crack down on sellers engaged in price gouging on items that have become crucial in fighting the spread of COVID-19.
Tong, who is part of a leadership team representing 34 state attorneys general, pointed out some flagrant examples of price gouging that included a 2-liter hand sanitizer bottle selling on Craigslist for $250, an 8-ounce sanitizer bottle on Facebook Marketplace selling at $40, and packs of face masks listed on eBay from $40 to $50.
“Irresponsible and unethical sellers are using this crisis as an opportunity to profit,” said Tong, arguing that the companies “can and must do more to protect consumers. Price gouging during a public health emergency is against Connecticut law, and that is true for online sales and brick and mortar shops. The Office of the Attorney General is prepared to take strong action against those profiteering during this pandemic.”
Tong added that his office could work with the state’s Department of Consumer Protection and bring lawsuits against price gougers and seek injunctions, restraining orders, restitution and civil financial penalties.
Separately, Tong joined a coalition of 15 state attorneys general in calling on Amazon and Whole Foods to increase paid sick and family leave provided to their employees during the COVID-19 crisis.
The attorneys general urged Amazon and Whole Foods to voluntarily adopt the requirements in the Families First Act, which was enacted by Congress on March 19 to ensure paid leave for workers during this crisis, and to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who must stay at home to care for children due to school closings or for themselves and family members if diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined.
Also, the attorneys general requested that Amazon provide funds to their delivery drivers – who are classified as independent contractors – in order to receive the comparable benefits being provided to regular employees.
“We all owe a debt of gratitude to the workers at Amazon and Whole Foods on the front lines of this fight keeping Americans fed and delivering supplies,” Tong said, noting that even with “all possible precautions in place, they are taking risks to remain on the job. They need and deserve robust paid sick leave to care for themselves, their family members, and to help their children suddenly home from school. In the unfortunate circumstance that any of these employees is exposed or becomes ill, they will need sufficient time to recover and keep their coworkers safe.”