A man wearing a mask holds a box from the American e-commerce company Amazon in the central district of Hong Kong.
Miguel Candela | SOPA Images | Getty Images
A senior Amazon executive calls on Congress to establish a federal pricing law so that the United States can more effectively combat the unfair types of mask and disinfectant prices seen on its site during the pandemic.
In one blog post Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, said on Wednesday that the company “stood ready” to work with the authorities to develop comprehensive pricing legislation.
The price hike legislation would help “protect consumers” from bad actors who sought to take advantage of the COVID-19 epidemic, as well as any other national crisis in the future, added Huseman. Currently, there are national laws on price increases in about two-thirds of the United States.
“While each state is unique and has the capacity to enact individual price pricing triggers and remedies, a federal price pricing law would ensure that there are no gaps in consumer protection”, said Huseman. “It would also help retailers like Amazon to more effectively prevent bad players and ensure fair prices.”
During the pandemic, Amazon, Walmart, and other e-commerce companies struggled to curb third-party sellers who overcharged for products with increasing demand. Sellers have inflated prices for face masks, coveralls and hand sanitizers, among other products. For example, before Amazon ran out of stock, N95 masks were priced at $ 13.28, but CNBC found examples of masks sold up to $ 195.
Huseman said Amazon had removed “well over half a million offers” suspected of deceiving customers and suspended nearly 4,000 US sales accounts for violating its fair pricing policies. Amazon has also provided federal and state attorneys general with nationwide information on vendors suspected of price gouging related to coronaviruses.
Huseman has set out several provisions which he says should be added to a federal pricing law, including giving the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the power to pursue prices, allowing for “faster enforcement”. He added that price standards should take into account any inevitable increase in supply, transport and labor costs that businesses face during a crisis.
“Simply put, we want to avoid the $ 400 bottle of Purell for sale right after an emergency takes effect, while not punishing the inevitable price increases that an emergency can cause, especially since supply chains are disrupted, “said Huseman.
Previously, Amazon faced numerous criticisms for its inability to suppress prices and products that made misleading claims about the coronavirus. Some third-party vendors have exploited fears about the virus by incorrectly marketing facial masks with specific keywords such as “coronavirus facial mask”.
Amazon’s call for regulation echoes similar recent calls from Facebook. In February, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said governments should create regulations for harmful online content instead of relying on social media companies to solve the problem on their own