New York attorney general nabs three Amazon sellers for price-gouging hand sanitizer

New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that three Amazon sellers will refund costumers who were charged exorbitant prices for hand sanitizer earlier this year public.

Three sellers — Yvette Chaya d/b/a Northwest-Lux (Northwest-Lux), Mobile Rush, Inc. d/b/a Best_Deals_27 (Mobile Rush), and EMC Group, Inc. d/b/a Supreme Suppliers (EMC) — will pay the state of New York more than $52,000 in penalties and reimburse consumers almost $23,000 for overcharging for hand sanitizer during the pandemic.

From March 1 to March 6, Northwest-Lux sold approximately 1,168 units of PURELL hand sanitizer on its Amazon storefront at prices that “grossly exceeded the price at which the same or similar products were readily obtainable in the trade area” according to the state. Specifically, Northwest-Lux charged consumers $79.99 to $129.99 for 2-liter bottles of PURELL, which typically sell for $20.87 to $35.00, and $69.99 for 2-packs of PURELL 20-ounce bottles, which typically sell for $14.88 to $35.10. As part of this agreement, Northwest-Lux will pay $20,000 in penalties, fees, and costs to the state of New York, as well as $5,717.13 in restitution to consumers who purchased hand sanitizers at exorbitant prices. Northwest-Lux consumers will receive partial refunds — ranging from $13.78 to $209.27 — depending on the product purchased, amount paid, and quantity ordered.

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From February 10 to March 11, Mobile Rush sold approximately 3,037 units of hand sanitizer on its Amazon storefront at similarly high prices. Mobile Rush sold six types of Germ-X and PURELL® hand sanitizer products, ranging in price from $19.99 to $159.99. For example, Mobile Rush charged consumers $19.99 to $29.99 for single 8-ounce bottles of Germ-X hand sanitizer, which typically sell for $1.00 to $3.00. As part of this agreement, Mobile Rush will pay $17,500 in penalties, fees, and costs to the state of New York, and an additional $9,113.00 in restitution to consumers who purchased these six hand sanitizer products at exorbitant prices. Mobile Rush consumers will receive partial refunds — ranging from $3.16 to $1,477.40 — depending on the product purchased, amount paid, and quantity ordered.

From February 10 to March 4, EMC sold approximately 1,884 units and seven types of PURELL hand sanitizer products, ranging in price from $22.45 to $299.95. For example, EMC charged consumers $35.98 to $52.99 for 8-packs of PURELL 1-ounce bottles, which typically sell for $12.00 to $22.00. As part of this agreement, EMC will pay $15,000 in penalties, fees, and costs to the state of New York, and an additional $8,113.77 in restitution to consumers who purchased these seven hand sanitizer products at exorbitant prices. EMC consumers will receive partial refunds — ranging from $6.10 to $403.67 — depending on the product purchased, amount paid, and quantity ordered.

Consumers do not need to do anything to receive restitution. Under the terms of the agreement, the companies are required to automatically issue partial refunds to the credit card, debit card, or bank account that consumers used to make their original purchases. Consumers should see the credit to their account within one or two billing cycles or may have already received a credit. In addition to paying a combined $52,500 in penalties, fees, and costs and $22,943.90 in consumer restitution, the companies have agreed to comply with New York state’s price gouging statute going forward

“Price gouging on necessary consumer supplies during an unprecedented public health emergency is absolutely unconscionable and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General James. “Instead of ensuring individuals could protect themselves from the coronavirus, these businesses operated with dirty hands by charging exorbitant prices on hand sanitizer and other cleansing products. My office will continue to clean up this unlawful practice by using all of the tools at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this pandemic.”

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