by Alex Harman
Part 13 - Conclusion
Part 13 - Conclusion
Price gouging is an exploitive business practice that manipulates markets and takes advantage of people at their most vulnerable and desperate. While some economic theories support price gouging as a function of supply and demand, they overlook the market manipulation that occurs when gougers contribute to scarcity by hoarding.
Much of our society has decided that price gouging during an emergency is unacceptable and should be prohibited by law. Yet, despite general agreement that price gouging is wrong and a large majority of states with price gouging laws in place, the practice continues on Amazon.com.
Amazon’s leadership has made clear that they do not tolerate price gouging and that they will stop third-party sellers from taking advantage of the pandemic. However, it is clear that not only are third-party sellers engaged in price gouging, but Amazon itself is selling essential products at significant price increases, and in many cases at a much higher price than other national retailers.
It is troubling that so much effort was put into blaming third-party sellers, but so little effort was made to stop the price increases – including on the products sold by Amazon directly. Amazon is not merely a victim in the price gouging on its marketplace. It is a perpetrator.
A federal price gouging statute that augments state laws is needed to address this problem. It should be in place so that the next emergency, big or small, does not produce price gougers as this one has.
In addition, Amazon needs to make significant reforms to prevent abuse on its site, and to provide consumers with the tools necessary to identify problematic prices and report them. Amazon already has demonstrated a desire to be a leader in combating price gouging. By implementing these reforms Amazon could serve as a model for other online retailers to help prevent price gouging in the future.
During emergencies, people are scared, desperate, and in need. Price gouging is an insidious exploitation of the most vulnerable. There is no excuse for the most successful corporations preying on vulnerable consumers by price gouging.