Special to the
Attorney General Steve Marshall announced a partnership with eBay last Tuesday to stop unconscionable online price gouging of Alabamians during the current pandemic. The partnership is part of Attorney General Marshall’s initiative to partner with the nation’s largest retail and technology companies to enable a more proactive and vigilant approach to protecting the people of Alabama from coronavirus-related price gouging.
“I am pleased to welcome the cooperation of eBay in assisting my office in locating and shutting down online price gouging related to the coronavirus pandemic,” Attorney General Marshall said. “While unscrupulous operators too often prey upon the public during times of disaster, e-commerce businesses like eBay have the ability to identify bad actors and stop their illicit businesses from claiming more victims.”
eBay officials have agreed to work with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office in targeting any online price gouging aimed at Alabama customers.
eBay has a policy in place that prohibits price gouging. The site recently announced it would temporarily prohibit the sale of certain masks and hand sanitizers, while placing additional restrictions on the sale of baby formula, baby wipes, diapers, tampons, and toilet paper, due to concerns that inflated prices for these products may violate applicable price gouging laws. In addition, it added a price gouging reporting tool, allowing users to directly report concerning listings to eBay representatives for review.
“At eBay, our priority is to ensure the safety of our customers and employees around the world. We have been closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and have taken significant measures to block or quickly remove items from our marketplace that make false health claims or offer products at inflated prices in violation of applicable laws,” said Aaron Johnson, eBay Vice President of Legal. “We share Attorney General Marshall’s concerns about protecting consumers from price gouging and look forward to continuing to collaborate on this important issue.”
Attorney General Marshall announced that Alabama’s price gouging law is now in effect with the issuance of a State Public Health Emergency by Governor Kay Ivey on March 13. Although what constitutes an unconscionable price is not specifically set forth in state law, a price that is 25% or more above the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days — unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost in connection with the rental or sale of the commodity — is a prima facie case of unconscionable pricing.
The penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, and those determined to have willfully and continuously violated this law may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.
The people of Alabama are encouraged to report suspected price gouging to the Consumer Interest Division of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office using the online form available at https://www.alabamaag.gov/consumercomplaint, or by calling 1-800-392-5658 to receive a paper form by mail to complete and return.
Last week, as part of the same initiative to partner with major retailers and technology companies to combat coronavirus-related price gouging, Attorney General Marshall announced partnerships with Amazon and Facebook.