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Pandemic price gouging remains a concern for online shoppers

U.S. PIRG warns of prices Amazon shoppers may face
Pandemic price gouging remains a concern for online shoppers
Posted at 4:34 AM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 18:51:34-05

Price gouging has been a concern throughout the pandemic. While many states have taken steps to crackdown on unfair pricing practices News is learning large increases are still happening impacting people shopping online. Consumer experts are raising awareness to help you make sure you don't get ripped off.

We know right now more and more people are doing their shopping online during the pandemic and consumer watchdogs say they're finding if you aren't careful you still might end up paying more than you should.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has been focused exclusively on Amazon because it's the largest online retailer and has vowed to combat price gouging.
In its research it found unsuspecting online shoppers could pay 2 to 14 times what they should. For example, one seller priced disinfecting wipes at nearly $40 compared to about $5 at other stores.
Amazon has worked to remove thousands of listings and third party sellers, but consumer advocates say this pricing remains a concern even at this stage of the pandemic.

"Typical price increases that you can see can range anywhere from 10 percent 15 percent or staying relatively stable. So this number of increases is very large," said U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Associate Grace Bromback.

37 states including Colorado currently have laws that help authorities fight price gouging during national or state emergencies. Congress added some price gouging protection in the HEROES bill, but consumer advocates says there still isn't a nationwide standard that can help prosecute price gougers across state lines.

Amazon says it too has advocated for a federal price gouging standard and is doing its best to make sure pricing on its platform is monitored and that bad actors are removed. Consumer experts at U.S. PIRG say they want to make sure that continues to happen.

"Amazon has responded saying that they have both automated and non-automated systems in place to detect price gouging on their site and we believe that they are doing a lot to combat price gouging but being such a giant in the marketplace we believe also that they have a responsibility to remove all of these listings or to send warning letters to these sellers," said Brombach.
Until there is a federal standard for enforcing price gouging laws the best advice is to check prices and try to make good decisions online to protect yourself from spending more money than you have to.

There are price tracking tools you can use to better understand pricing history on items like the one you'll find at keepa.com.

If you suspect a seller on Amazon specifically is violating selling policies you can report it here: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/200444420