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Amazon, DOJ ask consumers to report coronavirus price gouging

Christine Fisher
Contributing Writer
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, Amazon has seen a "significant increase in demand," especially for medical and cleaning supplies. It has also seen third-party retailers raising prices on things like masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant sprays. Now, Amazon is asking consumers to cooperate with a Department of Justice (DOJ) probe into coronavirus price gouging.

According to Reuters, Amazon sent an email to customers who may have purchased items from sellers guilty of price gouging. "We wanted to notify you directly about this matter in the event that you are contacted by the Department of Justice in connection with its investigation," the email reportedly stated.

Last week, the DOJ said it will hold anyone who violates antitrust laws accountable. "Individuals or companies that fix prices or rig bids for personal health protection equipment such as sterile gloves and face masks could face criminal prosecution," the department said in a press release.

Several state attorneys general have also condemned price gouging. Yesterday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, along with three other lawmakers, sent a letter to the DOJ asking it to investigate the issue.

"On my watch, we will not tolerate schemes or frauds designed to turn large profits by exploiting people's health concerns," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

Amazon has prioritized cleaning and medical supply shipments. Until April 5th, merchants can only ship in-demand goods to the company's warehouses. This should help keep those items on the shelves. Amazon is also hiring more warehouse and delivery workers. It says it is taking extra precautions to keep those employees safe -- though it doesn't have the best track record, and it has already had to temporarily close one facility in the US due to COVID-19.

If you have information on price fixing, bid-rigging or market allocation schemes, you can file a report with the DOJ here.