In context: Whenever there's a shortage of a high-demand product -- whether it's a video game collector's edition or a critical household supply -- opportunists will always look for a way to capitalize on the situation. In the case of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, some individuals have bought up large amounts of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other necessities with the intent to resell them with much higher price tags.
Some digital marketplaces, such as Amazon, have tried to crack down on the practice, but there are still plenty of exorbitantly-priced essentials on the site. It's clear that Amazon's workers alone cannot keep up with the sheer number of people looking to profit off of this crisis. Fortunately, they may not have to for much longer.
According to Reuters, Amazon has sent out emails to customers that may have been negatively impacted by price gougers. The emails apparently ask customers to cooperate with an ongoing "criminal investigation" from the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which is centered around opportunistic price gouging.
Reuters is not sure whether or not the DOJ's probe is directly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic (and the marked-up product listings that have surfaced from it), but the timing strongly implies that's the case.
"We wanted to notify you directly about this matter in the event that you are contacted by the Department of Justice in connection with its investigation," one portion of the email reads. Reuters did not provide any other direct quotes from the message.
While the idea of supply and demand is a core pillar of the US economy, it's clear that the process of intentionally (and often significantly) marking up potentially life-saving household supplies during a global pandemic isn't sitting right with some -- the DOJ included. We hope, for the sake of American citizens and those abroad, that the DOJ and Amazon are able to get a handle on this situation soon.