State AGs back effort to regulate online price gouging
A bipartisan coalition of 31 attorneys general has filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to support states’ authority to enforce price gouging regulations to protect consumers during emergencies.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and his colleagues are urging the appellate court to overturn the district court’s decision in Online Merchants Guild v. Cameron. The court entered a preliminary injunction preventing Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron from enforcing price gouging regulations against retailers selling products on Amazon.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how unscrupulous some businesses will be in taking advantage of a situation like a public health crisis to try and make more money,” Herring said. “It is critical that each state has the ability to protect its consumers and enforce its own price gouging laws during emergencies to make sure all consumers have the same access to essential goods. My office and I will continue to take price gouging seriously and hold any businesses that may be involved in price gouging accountable.”
More consumers have turned to online sellers to purchase food, medicine, cleaning supplies and other household essentials due to the government response to COVID-19 putting curbs on the ability to interact with local businesses.
The Online Merchants Guild, claiming that price gouging laws should not be applied to retailers selling goods on Amazon, filed a lawsuit after the Kentucky Attorney General’s office began investigating several Kentucky-based retailers.
The coalition emphasizes that price gouging laws level the playing field and ensure a more equitable distribution of goods to high- and low-income consumers.
The Virginia AG office’s Consumer Protection Section has received more than 500 consumer complaints and inquiries regarding suspected price gouging by businesses during the COIVD-19 state of emergency and sent out more than 150 letters to businesses demanding that they cease any illegal price gouging. Investigation of these complaints has revealed that many retail businesses claim that price increases occurred further up the supply chain with manufacturers or distributors, making it more difficult to address the problem at the retail level.