Coronavirus scams prove a federal anti-price gouging law is needed — Amazon's VP of public policy

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‘We want to avoid the $400 bottle of Purell for sale right after an emergency goes into effect’


It won’t happen, but a public registry of those convicted would be also be nice. Price gouging is a fantastic indicator of sociopathic tendencies.


I’d be curious what the language of such a law would look like. Defining gouging is kind of like defining porn: you know it when you see it, but harder to put into words that can be agreed on.

You still need to allow for price increases and even temporary price spikes. Like if swine flu killed 50% of pigs and farmers double their prices. They still need to cover their costs and we need a way to know to stop buying so much pork.

And not all things deserve equal protection. Concert tickets vs toilet paper vs medicine. Beans vs caviar.

Like I said, I’d be curious to see the language of such a law.


Somehow, when I punch, “Amazon, law” in on my brain’s keyboard, the only thing to come up is, “See antitrust.”


Markets exist only because of regulation and oversight. There is no such thing as a free market, other than some black markets.

But gouging is so hard to define concretely that I have never seen a useful definition. Along the lines of porn, we might be able to retrospectively weigh whether it was gouging, but without a particular case we can’t make forward looking, “prior” restraints.

Seems we have to treat it like hate speech: no prior restraint but significant penalties after the dust settles.

Yep, that is a significant problem. The N95 masks for example the supply dropped not to zero, but close, and prices going sky high are not insane. What makes it feel like gouging is people bought them and resold them at higher prices over short periods of time. Even there it would be somewhat hard to distinguish that from normal wholesale/retail activity. Then again, maybe normal wholesale/retail doesn’t deserve an exception (yeah, yeah, I know, if retailers and manufacturers didn’t get value out of it it wouldn’t last).

This is a really tricky problem, and while I think it probably can be solved, it may actually be trickier then mathematically defining gerrymandering.

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Amazon itself, of course, has zero control over the companies that sell merchandise on its site.


I see what you did there.

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If only we had some sort of bureau, for consumers, that would provide financial protection. . . .


I was gonna say something mean about StubHub too, but they got their comeuppance already.

The nytimes profiled a gouger.

He systematically cleared all the purell supply from Tennessee, and then he sold it at a steep markup on Amazon.

Mr. Colvin said he was simply fixing “inefficiencies in the marketplace.” Some areas of the country need these products more than others, and he’s helping send the supply toward the demand.

Yet much of the cost of Colvin’s product was in the shipping. Purell is considered a hazardous substance, and must be shipped using special precautions-- at a higher rate. And of course Colvin needs to cover the costs of his greed-- storage costs, gas, listing fees, perhaps the odd bribe here or there.

I think this counts as a “inefficiency” in the market place that grocery stores and pharmacies are better placed to address.

(yeah, he was shut down, and he had to donate his inventory to avoid prosecution.)


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