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Amazon Price Gouging During Pandemic Washington Class Action

Businesses are not allowed to take advantage of consumers in an emergency by wildly inflating prices—that is, by price gouging. This class action claims that Amazon.com, Inc. took advantage of customers during the Covid-19 pandemic to impose large rises on the prices of certain items ordered online, in violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act (WCPA).

The class for this action is all persons who bought any consumer good or food on Amazon.com after January 31, 2020 at a price at least 15% greater than the price charged on Amazon.com for the same consumer good or food before January 31, 2020.

During the pandemic, consumers turned to online ordering as a means of avoiding public spaces and other consumers. This has been a windfall for Amazon. The complaint alleges that, “since the Covid-19 pandemic began, its sales in some categories (e.g., home items) have increased more than 1,000 percent.”

The complaint provides some examples of Amazon price increases, which it calls “flagrantly unlawful:

  • Face Masks: Up to 1,800 percent, from $4.21 to $79.99;
  • Cold Remedies: Up to 1,523 percent, from $4.65 to $79.00;
  • Toilet Paper: Up to 1,044 percent, from $17.48 to $200;
  • Pain Reliever: Up to 233 percent, from $18.75 to $62.40;
  • Disinfectant Wipes: More than 745 percent, from $20.71 to $174.96.

WCPA does not have a threshold for price gouging, but other states have specified from 0-15%. A bill under consideration in the Washington Legislature specifies 15% as the level at which price increases become unlawful during an emergency, but the complaint claims that, whether or not it passes, the state’s “freestanding” prohibition on “unfair” acts or practices should still be enforced.

The Washington Attorney General, the complaint claims, “has already issued numerous cease-and-desist letters barring ‘price gouging during this emergency.’”

While Amazon has admitted that some price gouging has taken place on its platform, the complaint alleges “it has deflected responsibility by blaming third-party suppliers who use Amazon to market their goods.”

However, the complaint alleges that this is a “public relations campaign [that] has obscured two important facts.” First, it says, Amazon still controls every aspect of third-party sales, including price ceilings. Second, it says, “Amazon has inflated prices on its own inventory of products throughout the pandemic.”

The complaint claims a study by the Public Interest Research Group “shows that, in February 2020, Amazon had increased prices on its own inventory by more than 50 percent on one-sixth of public health products used to combat Covid-19. Later in September 2020, Public Citizen tracked Amazon pricing on 10 essential products that Amazon markets directly (e.g.[,] masks, toilet paper, disinfectant, etc.) and identified markups from 48% to 1,010%.

The complaint alleges that the three plaintiffs in this case bought products from Amazon at prices that far exceeded those before the pandemic, by from 58% to 469%.

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Consumer

Most Recent Case Event

Amazon Price Gouging During Pandemic Washington Complaint

July 2, 2021

Businesses are not allowed to take advantage of consumers in an emergency by wildly inflating prices—that is, by price gouging. This class action claims that Amazon.com, Inc. took advantage of customers during the Covid-19 pandemic to impose large rises on the prices of certain items ordered online, in violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act (WCPA).

Amazon Price Gouging During Pandemic Washington Complaint

Case Event History

Amazon Price Gouging During Pandemic Washington Complaint

July 2, 2021

Businesses are not allowed to take advantage of consumers in an emergency by wildly inflating prices—that is, by price gouging. This class action claims that Amazon.com, Inc. took advantage of customers during the Covid-19 pandemic to impose large rises on the prices of certain items ordered online, in violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act (WCPA).

Amazon Price Gouging During Pandemic Washington Complaint
Tags: Price Gouging, Unfair Business Practices