Price-gouging concerns grow with each new coronavirus diagnosis


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Concerns about price gouging are growing with each new coronavirus diagnosis. Store shelves all around central North Carolina that used to contain disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer are largely empty now.

The availability of such items online is limited, as well. Demand has skyrocketed for virus protection products in recent months. Adobe Analytics reported an 817 percent increase in sales for those products.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein issued a warning about bad actors trying to scam and price gouge during the COVID-19 situation.

“Watch out for people promising miracle cures or selling you a product that will protect your family at an inflated price,” Stein said.

Inflated prices are out there. CBS 17’s Steve Sbraccia found on Amazon a box of wipes for $89, hand sanitizer for $79, and a 35-count box of wipes for $86. He found a 75-count of wipes for $4.99 adjacent to a similar product listed at $42 — supposedly with a price cut from $61.

“There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” spokesperson Patrick Graham said.

He added that the company is “disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers.”

Graham added that Amazon will continue to monitor the site and remove offers that violate policies. Amazon’s fair-market policy includes active monitoring of all prices online in its marketplaces.

North Carolina’s price-gouging law is only enacted when a state of emergency is in effect.

To combat shortages, some stores limiting purchases of certain items and companies. Gojo Industries, which makes Purell hand sanitizer, said it is ramping up production to meet the demand. However, there is a lag between when a company increases production and when that extra supply hits shelves.

Wegmans is limiting purchases of some household goods like rubbing alcohol, wipes, and hand sanitizer.

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