Lawsuit accuses Amazon of price hikes during COVID-19 pandemic
- A complaint filed in California says Amazon has raised prices by up to 1,000% during the pandemic.
- “Some of the illegal increases involved sales of products supplied by third parties, sales that Amazon controls and which derives huge profits from them,” the lawsuit said.
- Consumers have tried to purchase food and supplies from Amazon while still honoring stay-at-home orders, according to the lawsuit.
- See more stories on the Insider business page.
A lawsuit accuses Amazon of “exploiting consumers at their most vulnerable time” by raising the prices of medical items, cleaning products, canned goods and other supplies needed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The class action lawsuit has now expanded to potentially include all Amazon buyers in the United States who have purchased such products, law firm Hagens Berman said on Friday.
Lawsuit says U.S. consumers turned to Amazon and other online retailers at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020, when home orders and the threat of disease made it difficult to buy food and essential supplies.
“In this environment, in accordance with guidelines from government and public health officials, consumers have naturally turned to online shopping, and Amazon in particular, to meet their basic needs,” the lawsuit said. “Without going out in public and risking exposure to themselves and others, with just a few clicks, Americans can purchase consumer goods from Amazon that will be delivered to their homes.”
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider regarding the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that the e-commerce giant has significantly increased the prices of various products. The cost of face masks, for example, jumped 500%, according to the lawsuit, from $ 20 to $ 120. The cost of sanitizers increased by 100%, according to the lawsuit, while the cost of an ordinary staple pantry item like black beans increased by 672%. Other items that dramatically increased in cost on Amazon included pain relievers, flour and cold remedies, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, first filed in April 2020 in Northern California District Court, says some items have increased by as much as 1,000%.
“Some of the illegal increases involved sales of products supplied by third parties, sales that Amazon controls and which derives huge profits from them,” the lawsuit said.
While there is no federal law explicitly making price hikes illegal, many states have outlawed the practice in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or pandemic.
“Amazon is the functional seller of these products and is responsible when abusive sales violate the law. But in addition, Amazon has inflated the prices of its own inventory of products, which Amazon supplies and sells directly to consumers,” according to the complaint. . .
Amazon said in May that Congress should pass a federal predatory pricing law to set a clear standard and definition.
Hagens Berman posted a call on his site ask people who bought from online retailers during the COVID-19 pandemic to describe their experience.
“The predatory pricing may have made you pay more,” the call said, urging consumers to fill out a form “to find out your consumer rights to potential compensation.”
In March of last year, Amazon said it cut nearly 4,000 individual sellers for price hikes during the pandemic.
But months after the start of the pandemic, sellers continued to charge up to 14 times more than other retailers for ordinary household products like soap and hand sanitizer.