Nessel, other AGs, urge online marketplaces to watch out for price-gouging

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a coalition of attorneys general Wednesday calling on Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart and Craigslist to step up monitoring of price-gouging by online sellers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Online marketplaces are continuing to grow in popularity for consumers, and we are noticing an increase in price-gouging practices online just as we have at true brick-and-mortar shops,” Nessel said in a statement. “We urge retailers with online marketplaces to monitor those venues for price-gouging and take commonsense measures to protect consumers from wrongfully inflated prices.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel answers questions from reporters during a press conference Feb. 21 in Lansing.

Nessel was among more than 30 attorneys general from across the country and Puerto Rico who signed letters Wednesday addressed to officials at Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart and Craigslist.

The group's letters cited several examples of price-gouging on the online marketplace platforms this month: on Craigslist, a 2-liter bottle of hand sanitizer selling for $250; on Facebook Marketplace, an 8-ounce bottle cost $40; and on eBay, packs of face masks listed at $40 and $50. 

In the letter, the coalition recommended several changes to protect consumers from price-gouging, including enacting policies and enforcing restrictions during emergencies, triggering price-gouging protections before an emergency declaration and having a complaint portal to report incidents. 

Nessel’s office has worked to combat price-gouging in Michigan as authorities work to address COVID-19, including supporting state legislation, extending hours for a consumer protection hotline and sending cease and desist letters to retailers.   

By Tuesday, the Attorney General’s Office had received 1,578 price-gouging complaints related to COVID-19, including 649 filed through its consumer protection website and 929 taken by phone. A total of 97 were received by phone Monday out of 169 calls to the consumer protection tip line, the office said.