Purell for $400? U.S. lawmaker urges Amazon to tamp down price gouging

FILE PHOTO: Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in the Manhattan borough of New York City, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Inc AMZN.O should stop third-party sellers from price gouging for items like Purell hand sanitizer as people seek to protect themselves from the coronavirus, U.S. Senator Edward Markey said in a letter to the online retailer on Wednesday.

A box of small Purell bottles that usually sells for $10 was listed online for $400, he said. One third-party seller listed a bottle for $600 on Wednesday afternoon. However, the Amazon brand of hand sanitizer was listed for $8.25 for a large bottle.

The virus, which first erupted in China, has sickened more than 94,000 people globally and killed 3,220. The disease was recently detected in the United States and has killed 11 people in this country.

“As the world confronts the prospect of a serious and far-reaching pandemic, corporate America has a responsibility to prevent profiteering on the sales of items such as hand-sanitizer and surgical masks,” Markey wrote in his letter.

Amazon called the price-gougers “bad actors.” “There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” a spokesman said in a statement. “We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”

Amazon said it was monitoring prices to ensure sellers complied with fair pricing policies and said that it could remove sellers who violate them.

Amazon last week barred more than 1 million products that inaccurately claimed to cure or defend against the coronavirus. Amazon also removed tens of thousands of deals from merchants that it said attempted to price gouge customers.

Markey asked the online retailer to respond to his questions about its anti-gouging efforts by March 18.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker