FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron issued subpoenas Thursday to six third-party sellers in Kentucky who used Amazon’s online platform to engage in suspected price gouging during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The sellers allegedly engaged in the price gouging of essential emergency and medical supplies, including hand sanitizer and N95 respirator masks. Some sellers inflated the price of these items by as much as 1,951% when marketing to consumers.
“Kentuckians who purchase essential medical and emergency supplies should feel confident that they are not being taken advantage of because of the health crisis,” said Cameron. “The egregious actions of these third-party sellers will not be tolerated in Kentucky, and the subpoenas we issued should serve as a warning to anyone who tries to illegally profit from COVID-19. I am grateful to Amazon for working with us to stop these predatory practices by third-party sellers.”
Amazon worked with Cameron to identify the top price gougers based in Kentucky. Over half of the sellers were served with cease and desist orders, and investigations are continuing.
Since Kentucky’s price gouging laws went into effect in early March, Cameron has worked diligently to protect Kentuckians from predatory pricing during the COVID-19 health crisis. In addition to today’s actions, Cameron:
- Activated the Consumer Protection Hotline (1-888-432-9257) for suspected price gouging complaints.
- Launched Kentucky’s first online price gouging complaint form (ag.ky.gov/pricegouging) to make it easier to report suspected price gouging.
- Worked with Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery to return medical supplies from a suspected price gouging scheme to law enforcement and first responders.
- Requested that Gov. Beshear renew the executive order activating Kentucky’s price gouging laws.
KRS 367.374 outlines the sale or rental of goods and services when a state of emergency is in effect, and states that no person shall sell or rent an item for a price “which is grossly in excess of the price prior to the declaration.” Goods and services included in this prohibition include consumer food items; goods or services used for emergency cleanup; emergency supplies; medical supplies; home heating oil; building materials; housing; transportation, freight, and storage services; and gasoline or other motor fuels.
When filing a price gouging complaint, consumers are encouraged to report as many details as possible about the suspected price gouging, including the name and address of the seller/retailer, the item purchased, the price of the item after the emergency declaration, and the price of the item before the emergency declaration, if known. If a refund is sought, consumers should also keep receipts from the transaction to show proof of purchase.
The attorney general can seek restitution for victims of price gouging and may seek civil penalties against sellers of up to $25,000 for multiple price gouging violations within a 24-hour period.
Report suspected price gouging to the attorney general’s office at ag.ky.gov/pricegouging or by calling 1-888-432-9257.