Amazon Sued Over Coronavirus Price Gouging

On March 10, Stephanie Armas filed a class action complaint against Amazon for unlawfully increasing prices during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Armas, who filed the suit on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, alleges that Amazon was charging excessive prices “for personal hygiene products during a public health crisis.” The case is being held in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Miami-Dade County, Florida before Judge Pedro P. Echarte.

Governor Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency in Florida on March 9 in response to the worsening coronavirus outbreak. The same day, Armas purchased “a package of thirty-six rolls of toilet paper and a pack of two, one-liter bottles of Purell hand sanitizer” from Amazon. Armas, a mother of five, allegedly paid $99 for the toilet paper and $199 for the sanitizer. According to the complaint, rolls of toilet paper usually cost $1 each, while a liter of Purell customarily sells for $7-8.

According to the complaint, personal hygiene products are under more significant demand because of the COVID-19 virus and “the very real threat of a widespread quarantine.” Armas alleges that Amazon and other retailers “are preying upon the public’s fear of a surging epidemic and using COVID-19 as an opportunity to pad profits by way of unlawful price increases.”

Armas sought certification of a class of others who might also be affected by the potential price gouging. The proposed class consists of “all consumers in the State of Florida who purchased hygienic products from [Amazon] following the declaration of a state of emergency.” Parties excluded from the class include consumers who are not citizens of Florida, anyone who made a prompt decision to be excluded from the class, the Judge, and the attorneys of record.

The complaint cites Florida Statutes § 501.201, et seq. which collectively outline the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices. The “Unlawful Acts and Practices” section explains, “Unfair methods of competition, unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful.” According to Armas, Amazon’s allegedly engaged in these practices during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Armas seeks damages for Amazon’s alleged unfair trade practices. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) recently wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, imploring him to take action on price gouging amidst the outbreak.