Home Health How to Spot Price Gouging on Amazon

How to Spot Price Gouging on Amazon

Illustration for article titled How to Spot Price Gouging on Amazon

Image: Jeramey Lende (Shutterstock)

The convenience of Amazon is tough to beat, particularly in the midst of COVID-19, but a new report shows the tech giant may be overcharging for some pandemic essentials.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a consumer advocacy group, looked at ten food, health, and cleaning staples that were likely to be popular amid the pandemic. The report found evidence of price gouging compared to competitors like Target, Walmart, and other retailers.

The August report found ten staple products were two to fourteen times more costly than identical products elsewhere. For example, the group spotted a package of Clorox disinfectant wipes for $37.95 on Amazon, which cost only $5 elsewhere. It also mentions a $29.99 thermometer priced at $10 at other stores.

Although the advocacy group and some lawmakers pushed for federal and state-level consumer protections, 13 states still haven’t passed anti-price gouging laws. This may be a problem as the pandemic stretches on and natural disasters continue to strike.

How to spot price gouging

There are a few ways to spot price gouging on Amazon. Start by comparing the prices by unit for similar products—which may be easier to spot some of the big differences. Another red flag is no “buy box” from Amazon. In some cases, the company may remove your ability to buy something immediately if it violates its fair pricing policy.

You may also use Amazon price tracking tools—like CamelCamelCamel or Keepa—to see recent price changes. This may show you if sellers are hiking prices during events like the pandemic or a natural disaster. You should also watch for opened products. Some sellers will buy bulk products, separate into singles, and then hike the prices.

Report problem sellers

If you spot price gouging, you can report the company to your state Attorney General. There’s a state-by-state breakdown of where to report each one—including online forms and phone numbers—here. You may need to provide the name of the Amazon seller, the product details, when you saw the product, and a screenshot of the product with pricing details.

Contact your elected officials

Are you curious about how your state laws compare to others? There’s a list of price gouging state statutes here. If you’re living somewhere with fewer protections—and you want to see tougher laws—consider contacting your state representatives.

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