CT attorney general accuses Amazon of failing to monitor illegal price gouging
Connecticut’s attorney general is accusing Amazon of failing to police its websites for illegal markups of merchandise, while reiterating a request for residents to report price gouging to his office.
Attorney General William Tong wants information from Amazon “regarding efforts to detect and combat price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic” as worded in a Thursday warning from his office, noting any such instances are illegal following an emergency declaration last week by Gov. Ned Lamont.
As part of his request, Tong demanded Amazon turn over the names of any state residents or businesses whom the company has determined to be profiteering at the expense of buyers during the coronavirus emergency. And the attorney general wants details on Amazon’s policies for monitoring abuses on its websites, both before and after the emergency declaration.
Tong’s complaint came as Amazon confirmed Thursday what it believes to be the first diagnosis of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in its employee population, with a warehouse worker in New York City contracting the virus.
Tong indicated his office has sent similar letters to other unnamed Connecticut retailers, while singling out Amazon publicly for its market heft and noting a “Fair Pricing Policy” did not appear to be curbing abuses by some sellers using its platform.
“With the size of its market share, Amazon plays a crucial role in deterring price gouging, and assisting law enforcement in bringing predatory sellers to account,” said Kim McGee, assistant attorney general in Tong’s office, in the letter to Amazon.
The attorney general’s office explained an Amazon shopper complained of being charged $400 in shipment fees for two boxes of face masks sold for less than $100 by a seller using the Amazon handle “VictoryZ,” one of more than 130 complaints by consumers who say they were overcharged in stores or online for basic supplies like disinfectants, hand sanitizers and toilet paper.
The company is among the state’s larger employers, both through its subsidiary chain Whole Foods Market, as well as its website distribution centers in North Haven and Wallingford, with another planned for Stratford at last report.
Last month, Amazon opened its first retail store in Connecticut, an Amazon 4-star outlet at the new SoNo Collection mall in South Norwalk. Connecticut malls have been ordered to close as Lamont looks to limit mass gatherings during the outbreak.
Price gouging complaints can be filed online at www.dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint.
Ken Dixon contributed to this report.
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