SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--California consumers hit Amazon.com with a class-action lawsuit accusing the retail giant of violating state consumer-protection laws by price-gouging during the COVID-19 public health crisis, according to attorneys at Hagens Berman.
According to the lawsuit filed Apr. 21, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the world’s largest retailer, Amazon.com, has engaged in “unconscionable” and unlawful price increases during the COVID-19 pandemic, inflating prices for essential goods by upwards of 672 percent. Under California law, any price increase exceeding 10 percent during a state or local emergency is presumptively illegal.
“California law rightly prohibits profiteering from a public health crisis,” the suit begins. “Exploiting consumers in their most vulnerable hour is not only contrary to basic human decency—it is a criminal offense in California and presumptively unlawful under California’s Unfair Competition Law…Amazon’s position as a vital seller in times of contagion does not place it above the law.”
“Many Americans were already barely making ends meet before the outbreak of COVID-19, and the crisis gave many their first encounter with resource scarcity and widespread financial distress,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for consumers in the class action. “Amazon has chosen to take advantage of this global crisis facing all of us by profiteering on vulnerable consumers.”
The lawsuit states that consumers have turned to online shopping to fulfill their essential needs, particularly as warnings mounted from the Centers for Disease Control and other officials to practice social distancing, stay home and shelter in place, all to curb the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. “Amazon’s sales have never been higher, and since the COVID-19 pandemic began, its sales in some categories (e.g., home items) are up more than 1000 percent,” according to the lawsuit.
Amazon Price-Gouging on Essential Items
According to the filed lawsuit, as the COVID-19 crisis has escalated, so too have Amazon’s prices for the goods consumers require to remain healthy, protected and nourished. Attorneys say that after COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency by California officials, certain Amazon prices increased as follows:
- Face Masks: Increases exceeding 500 percent, from less than $20 to $120;
- Pain Reliever: Increases of 233 percent, from $18.75 to $62.40;
- Cold Remedies: Increases up to 634 percent, from $4.65 to $35.99;
- Black Beans: Increases up to 672 percent, from $3.17 to $24.50;
- Flour: Increases up to 400 percent, from $22.00 to $110.00;
- Disinfectants: Increase of 100 percent, from $14.99 to $29.99.
The lawsuit against Amazon seeks repayment to consumers for Amazon’s price-gouging, as well as injunctive relief from the court barring Amazon’s overpricing.
Find out more about the class-action lawsuit against Amazon for price-gouging during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.