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Amazon sellers fined for price gouging hand sanitizer during the pandemic

Three sellers have been ordered to reimburse New Yorkers

Photo (c) Chalffy - Getty Images
A trio of Amazon sellers have been hit with a fine from New York Attorney General Letitia James for price gouging hand sanitizer during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Tuesday, James’ office said three third-party sellers -- Mobile Rush, EMC Group, and Northwest-Lux -- sold upwards of 1,000 units of hand sanitizer on Amazon’s marketplace “at prices that grossly exceeded the price at which the same or similar products were readily obtainable” elsewhere.

During February and March, Northwest-Lux was charging Amazon customers $79.99 to $129.99 for 2-liter bottles of Purell. Mobile Rush was charging $19.99 to $29.99 for single, 8-ounce bottles of Germ-X hand sanitizer. EMC was charging consumers $35.98 to $52.99 for 8-packs of 1-ounce Purell bottles. 

James said she has stopped the merchants from selling hand sanitizer at expensive rates. She also said she will reimburse New Yorkers that bought the high-priced hand sanitizer.

Consumer reimbursement ordered

The sellers have been ordered to pay a fine of $52,000 to the state of New York. Defrauded consumers will collectively be reimbursed almost $23,000. 

“Price gouging on necessary consumer supplies during an unprecedented public health emergency is absolutely unconscionable and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General James in a press release. 

“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.”

Consumers who purchased overpriced hand sanitizer products from any of the three sellers don’t need to do anything to receive restitution. James said the companies are required to automatically issue partial refunds to the credit card, debit card, or bank account that consumers used to make their original purchases. 

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