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Kentucky Amazon Sellers Charged with Price Gouging
By West Kentucky Star Staff
FRANKFORT - Attorney General Daniel Cameron issued subpoenas on Thursday to six third-party sellers in Kentucky who are accused of using Amazon's online platform to engage in suspected price gouging during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Cameron said 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 20 times their value.

Amazon worked with Cameron to identify the top price gougers based in Kentucky. More than half of the sellers were served with cease and desist orders, and investigations are continuing.

"Kentuckians who purchase essential medical and emergency supplies should feel confident that they are not being taken advantage of because of the health crisis," Cameron said. "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."

Cameron told the Greg Dunker Show Thursday morning that two of the biggest violators were the same brothers from Tennessee who were caught earlier this month buying up hand sanitizer and selling it at a markup.

"They basically traveled the I-75 corridor purchasing what's now become known as PPE, or personal protective equipment. They had gone into these different stores and bought masks, sanitizer, gloves and disinfectant wipes," Cameron said. "And so, with the help of the Tennessee Attorney General's Office and their investigators and our investigators, we contacted these gentlemen. Once they realized the seriousness of what they had done, they relented of their possessions and decided to donate them. So we got a big U-Haul truck full of some of those really important and critical items that can really help during this pandemic, and were able to distribute and disseminate those out to our first responders and law enforcement communities back here in the commonwealth."    

Cameron said he has also activated the Consumer Protection Hotline (1-888-432-9257) for suspected price gouging complaints, and launched Kentucky's first online price gouging complaint form (ag.ky.gov/pricegouging) to make it easier to report suspected price gouging.

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.

Cameron said he 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.

Published 09:30 AM, Thursday Mar. 26, 2020
Updated 12:20 AM, Friday Mar. 27, 2020

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