Walmart, eBay, Facebook under CT scrutiny for coronavirus price gouging

Photo of Alexander Soule

Alongside more than 30 counterparts nationally, Connecticut’s attorney general added Walmart, eBay, Facebook and Craisglist to an existing investigation that focused initially on complaints by Amazon users who were victimized by price gougers on its websites.

Separately, Attorney General William Tong implored Amazon to implement paid leave immediately for any of its workers who need it should they or family members fall ill during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as workers at its Whole Foods Market subsidiary.

Tong’s investigation into price gouging was prompted in part by complaints to his office of outrageous prices by Amazon sellers for items in short supply like respirator masks and hand sanitizer, with convenience stores and others statewide also coming onto his radar.

Other abuses under investigation by the AGs include a bottle of hand sanitizer priced at $250 on Craigslist, and packs of face masks on eBay going for $50.

“Major corporations like Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Walmart and Craigslist can and must do more to protect consumers,” Tong stated. “Price gouging during a public health emergency is against Connecticut law — and that is true for online sales and brick and mortar shops..

Tong has yet to announce any sanctions or lawsuits to set an example for would-be perpetrators. Several vendors have added language to their websites describing their efforts to prevent price gouging during the coronavirus crisis, but without getting the results sought by Tong and his fellow attorneys general.

As a group, the attorneys general are asking major online vendors to create systems that, when activated in emergencies that create runs on supplies, would prevent sellers from setting prices beyond a certain percentage of their recent history. And they want online marketplaces to create an easy-to-find portal for shoppers to report abuses, and act on any complaints.

Connecticut consumers can report any suspicions of price gouging online at; 203-842-2545; @casoulman