Lawsuit accuses Amazon of price gouging during COVID-19 pandemic

Amazon is facing a class-action lawsuit that accuses the world’s largest online retailer of price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hagens Berman, a Seattle-based consumer-rights class-action law firm, filed the case last year. But the firm announced on Friday its lawsuit has expanded to include a proposed class of all Amazon shoppers nationwide who purchased affected products.

The expanded lawsuit accuses Amazon of engaging in "unconscionable" and unlawful price increases during the COVID-19 pandemic, inflating prices for essential goods by upwards of 1,800%, according to a news release.

The lawsuit said Amazon prices increased on the following items after federal officials declared a public health emergency last year:

  • Face Masks: Increases up to 1,800%, from $4.21 to $79.99;
  • Cold Remedies: Increases up to 1,523%, from $4.65 to $79.00;
  • Toilet Paper: Increases up to 1,044%, from $17.48 to $200;
  • Black Beans: Increases up to 521%, from $3.54 to $21.99;
  • Flour: Increases up to 400%, from $22.00 to $110.00;
  • Disinfectant Wipes: Increases of more than 745% from $20.71 to $174.96.

"Attempting to profit from a deadly pandemic is far from a victimless act," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. "When Amazon chose to hike up prices of emergency supplies and other goods while the world was reeling from COVID-19, it unlawfully price-gouged vulnerable consumers who were relying on Amazon to obtain goods safely."

Plaintiffs are seeking repayment to consumers. They encourage anyone who purchased food, cleaning products, personal hygiene products and emergency or medical products to read more about the lawsuit and consider their rights.

"We intend to hold Amazon accountable for the choice it made," Berman said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Price gouging is not outlawed at the federal level, though many states have made it illegal during emergencies. According to FOX Business, Amazon asked Congress in May 2020 to pass a federal law against price gouging so there would be a unified standard and definition.

This story was reported from Atlanta.