Last Updated on March 19, 2020
The Attorney General’s Offices in New York, California, and Washington are looking to prosecute those vendors in their states that are selling pandemic supplies to willing consumers at what is being referred to as a “unconscionably excessive price.”
“To regulators and many others, the sellers are sitting on a stockpile of medical supplies during a pandemic. The attorney general’s offices in California, Washington and New York are all investigating price gouging related to the coronavirus,” reported by the New York Times this Sunday.
In California, where price gouging laws are particularly harsh, increasing the sale price over 10 percent during an officially declared emergency is considered unlawful, even when in most places price markups are well within the right of a vendor.
In New York, a similar law exists for times of emergency protocol. However, the legal language is a bit more ambiguous. In New York, vendors are prohibited from, “unconscionably excessive price” during emergencies.
In Washington, officials will be exploring the possibility of prosecuting vendors in other sates where it can be proven that there were sales being promoted by said vendor in the state of Washington.
Brothers Matt and Noah Colvin who reside in Tennessee are good examples of a vendor hit particularly hard by new restrictions on the sale of pandemic supplies to willing customers.
Under this 21-century career referred to as retail arbitrage, people have become empowered to make upwards of six figure salaries by monitoring the market, and buying up items based on what is trending. This was no different when people started to panic about the contamination rates of COVID-19.
The Colvin brothers have put in weeks of effort and thousands of miles on the road filling a truck with supplies.
“Mr. Colvin said he had posted 300 bottles of hand sanitizer and immediately sold them all for between $8 and $70 each, multiples higher than what he had bought them for. To him, “it was crazy money.” To many others, it was profiteering from a pandemic,” reported Jack Nicas.
When his inventory was removed from availability to the public, 17,700 bottle of hand sanitizer, and numerous other pandemic supplies were left to collect dust instead of help those who would willingly purchase the goods. Matt Colvin decided to donate his hand sanitizer so that it will go to good use in this state of emergency.
“Mr. Colvin does not believe he was price gouging. While he charged $20 on Amazon for two bottles of Purell that retail for $1 each, he said people forget that his price includes his labor, Amazon’s fees and about $10 in shipping.”
Alcohol-based sanitizer is more expensive to ship because officials consider it a hazardous material.
Modern price-gouging laws “are not built for today’s day and age,” Colvin said.
Some places need these supplies more than others, so for vendors to make availability on the online market for these good could be beneficial as we work to prevent the spread of the Wuhan flu.