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HELENA - Montana Attorney General Tim Fox is demanding several retailers to adopt strict regulations on third party price gougers selling essential items on the internet in concern for the spread of coronavirus.

Fox and other attorneys general wrote letters to Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Walmart and Craigslist in attempt to stop price gouging, according to a release from Fox.

“We want the business community and American consumers to know that we endeavor to balance the twin imperatives of commerce and consumer protection in the marketplace,” the attorneys general letter reads in the release. “And, while we appreciate reports of the efforts made by platforms and online retailers to crack down on price gouging as the American community faces an unprecedented public health crisis, we are calling on you to do more at a time that requires national unity.”

According to the release, it is against the law in Montana to price fix and operate unjust or misleading business towards customers.  

“When consumers can’t get reasonably priced products to protect their families and prevent the spread of coronavirus, our communities are at risk for serious health consequences as a result,” Fox said in the release. “Online marketplaces aren’t exempt from price gouging laws, and companies like Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Craigslist, and Walmart need to step up and do more to prevent sellers from unconscionable mark-ups that violate consumer protection laws.” 

The attorneys general mentioned a few examples of price gouging on retailer websites with a 2-liter hand sanitizer bottle being sold for $250 on Craigslist, according to the release.

They requested the retailers to set following rules in place to prevent future price gouging problems from happening

  1. Only allow resellers to set prices at a minimum raise depending on average price the item was listed 3 months before the emergency event started
  2. Prompt defenses against price gouging before weather or health emergencies happen
  3. Allow customers to file reports against possible price gougers

Consumers are urged to report what they believe could be potential price gougers to Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, email contactocp@mt.gov, or report online.

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