New York's Attorney General has fined three Amazon sellers and ordered them to pay restitution to customers for marking up the price of hand sanitizer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a press release from the office of New York AG Letitia James, the three sellers agreed to pay back a combined $23,000 to customers who purchased the overpriced hand sanitizer and also agreed to pay $52,500 in penalties, fees, and costs.
James' office says that the three Amazon sellers — Northwest-Lux, Mobile Rush and EMC Group, Inc — sold hand sanitizer online at a substantial markup in February and early March when the coronavirus began to arrive in the U.S.
At that time, hand sanitizer had quickly disappeared from store shelves as stores weren't prepared for skyrocketing demand. According to James' office, that's when the three Amazon sellers began selling sanitizer online at an enormous markup.
The Attorney General's office says Northwest-Lux charged customers as much as $130 for a 2-liter bottle of hand sanitizer that typically sells for $20. The press release says Mobile Rush charged up to $30 for an 8 0z. bottle of Germ-X — which typically sells for about $2. EMC was selling eight-packs of Purell for up to $53 — a price increase of up to $41.
James' office says that customers who purchased the overpriced items will receive restitution, which will be applied directly to their credit or debit cards.
"Price gouging on necessary consumer supplies during an unprecedented public health emergency is absolutely unconscionable and will not be tolerated," James said. "Instead of ensuring individuals could protect themselves from the coronavirus, these businesses operated with dirty hands by charging exorbitant prices on hand sanitizer and other cleansing products. My office will continue to clean up this unlawful practice by using all of the tools at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this pandemic."
James' office isn't alone in fighting COVID-19 price gouging. Earlier this year, Amazon suspended the accounts of thousands of sellers for price-gouging related offenses, including one man who chose to donate his excess supply of hand sanitizer to a local church and the state of Tennessee. Others have been prosecuted for hoarding N95 masks and other personal protective equipment.