Corona virus price gouging

Avoid Price Gouging

As the coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, more Americans are taking precautionary measures like using hand sanitizer, halting travel, and avoiding handshakes. There is a lot to worry about with this outbreak, but absurd prices for sanitizers and other critical safety supplies shouldn’t be one of them.

Click here to file a consumer complaint with the Florida Department of Consumer Services.

Despite U.S. PIRG Education Fund publicly shaming Amazon and other online retailers for allowing price gouging in their online marketplaces at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, a new analysis shows that the problem is still serious.

Six months later, U.S. PIRG Education Fund revisited whether Amazon had lived up to its promise of tackling price gouging. Our new analysis looked at 10 staple products found on many shopping lists during the COVID-19 pandemic, including hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and digital thermometers. Of these items, options from Amazon were two to fourteen times more expensive than the identical products sold at other retailers. Some examples include: 

Disinfectant Wipes: We found the same 75-count Clorox Disinfecting Wipes listed on Amazon for $37.95, the second by Target for $4.49 and the third by Home Depot for $5.14. The price of the Amazon option is over eight times as high as Target’s and over seven times as high as Home Depot’s. 

Paper Towels: We found a pack of 6 Bounty Doubles Select-A-Size rolls on Amazon for $58.80. We found the exact same Bounty product on Walmart’s website for $9.98 and on Kroger’s website for $11.99. Amazon’s price is almost six times as high as Walmart’s and almost five times as high as Kroger’s.

Antibacterial Hand Wipes: We found a 40-count Wet Ones Antibacterial Wipes canister for $27.60 on Amazon, compared with prices of $1.99 and $1.98 at Target and Walmart. The Amazon price is almost 14 times as expensive as Target and Walmart.

“Not only do we need Amazon and other major online marketplaces to police themselves, but also we’re calling on every state to pass anti-price gouging laws that will protect consumers.” said Grace Brombach, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Consumer Watchdog Associate. "No one should have to pay exorbitant prices on essential products, during this pandemic or in future national and state emergencies.”


  1. Use a price tracking tool like CamelCamelCamel or Keepa to see if the price increased recently.
  2. Compare the price to similar products, especially looking at the cost per unit. Recently I saw a $459 bottle of hand sanitizer--and it was only 50 ml.
  3. Be cautious of buying opened products that are being resold in singles or some that appeared in the last few days. I saw two surgical masks sold individually at a 600% markup.
  4. Check ingredients closely: The CDC says the only kind of hand sanitizer known to kill the Coronavirus has at least 60% alcohol in it.
  5. If there is no “buy box” on Amazon, consider not buying it. In some cases, Amazon is removing the option to immediately purchase because they think it violates their fair pricing policy.


  1. Report problems: Until platforms like Amazon prevent absurdly priced products from ever appearing on their website, you should report problematic items to the company and state consumer officials.
  2. Send Jeff Bezos a message: Nearly 30,000 supporters have asked Amazon to ensure every item sold there is fairly priced during emergencies. Add your name.
  3. Enact stronger laws to prevent price gouging: Elected officials should investigate how these platforms enable price gouging and establish stronger laws to require companies to prevent price gouging before it ever happens.

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