Attorney General James Stops Three Amazon Sellers from Price Gouging Hand Sanitizer and Recoups Funds for New Yorkers

Sellers to Pay More Than $52,000 in Penalties and Nearly $23,000 in Consumer Restitution

AG James Reminds Sellers Price Gouging is Unlawful During Pandemic

New York – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that she has stopped three Amazon sellers from price gouging hand sanitizer during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis, and that she will help deliver tens of thousands of dollars back into the pockets of defrauded New Yorkers. Three sellers — Yvette Chaya d/b/a Northwest-Lux (Northwest-Lux), Mobile Rush, Inc. d/b/a Best_Deals_27 (Mobile Rush), and EMC Group, Inc. d/b/a Supreme Suppliers (EMC) — will pay the state of New York more than $52,000 in penalties and reimburse consumers almost $23,000 for overcharging for hand sanitizer during the pandemic.

“Price gouging on necessary consumer supplies during an unprecedented public health emergency is absolutely unconscionable and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General James. “Instead of ensuring individuals could protect themselves from the coronavirus, these businesses operated with dirty hands by charging exorbitant prices on hand sanitizer and other cleansing products. My office will continue to clean up this unlawful practice by using all of the tools at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this pandemic.”

NYS Attorney General Latitia James

From March 1, 2020 to March 6, 2020, Northwest-Lux sold approximately 1,168 units of PURELL® hand sanitizer on its Amazon storefront at prices that grossly exceeded the price at which the same or similar products were readily obtainable in the trade area. Specifically, Northwest-Lux charged consumers $79.99 to $129.99 for 2-liter bottles of PURELL®, which typically sell for $20.87 to $35.00, and $69.99 for 2-packs of PURELL® 20-ounce bottles, which typically sell for $14.88 to $35.10. As part of this agreement, Northwest-Lux will pay $20,000 in penalties, fees, and costs to the state of New York, as well as $5,717.13 in restitution to consumers who purchased hand sanitizers at exorbitant prices. Northwest-Lux consumers will receive partial refunds — ranging from $13.78 to $209.27 — depending on the product purchased, amount paid, and quantity ordered.

From February 10, 2020 to March 11, 2020, Mobile Rush sold approximately 3,037 units of hand sanitizer on its Amazon storefront at prices that grossly exceeded the price at which the same or similar products were readily obtainable in the trade area. Mobile Rush sold six types of Germ-X and PURELL® hand sanitizer products, ranging in price from $19.99 to $159.99. For example, Mobile Rush charged consumers $19.99 to $29.99 for single 8-ounce bottles of Germ-X hand sanitizer, which typically sell for $1.00 to $3.00. As part of this agreement, Mobile Rush will pay $17,500 in penalties, fees, and costs to the state of New York, and an additional $9,113.00 in restitution to consumers who purchased these six hand sanitizer products at exorbitant prices. Mobile Rush consumers will receive partial refunds — ranging from $3.16 to $1,477.40 — depending on the product purchased, amount paid, and quantity ordered.

From February 10, 2020 to March 4, 2020, EMC sold approximately 1,884 units of hand sanitizer on its Amazon storefront at prices that grossly exceeded the price at which the same or similar products were readily obtainable in the trade area. EMC sold seven types of PURELL® hand sanitizer products, ranging in price from $22.45 to $299.95. For example, EMC charged consumers $35.98 to $52.99 for 8-packs of PURELL® 1-ounce bottles, which typically sell for $12.00 to $22.00. As part of this agreement, EMC will pay $15,000 in penalties, fees, and costs to the state of New York, and an additional $8,113.77 in restitution to consumers who purchased these seven hand sanitizer products at exorbitant prices. EMC consumers will receive partial refunds — ranging from $6.10 to $403.67 — depending on the product purchased, amount paid, and quantity ordered.

Consumers do not need to do anything to receive restitution. Under the terms of the agreement, the companies are required to automatically issue partial refunds to the credit card, debit card, or bank account that consumers used to make their original purchases. Consumers should see the credit to their account within one or two billing cycles or may have already received a credit. In addition to paying a combined $52,500 in penalties, fees, and costs and $22,943.90 in consumer restitution, the companies have agreed to comply with New York state’s price gouging statute going forward.

Attorney General James has been focused on protecting consumers and vulnerable communities since the onset of the pandemic and these agreements with Northwest-Lux, Mobile Rush, and EMC are part of a broader investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) into price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic. The OAG has already issued more than 1,800 cease-and-desist orders to businesses that stand accused of violating New York’s price gouging law. Additionally, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against Hillandale Farms in August — one of the nation’s largest producers and wholesale distributors of eggs — for illegally gouging the prices of eggs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorney General James reminds sellers of goods and services vital to and necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers or the general public that New York’s price gouging statute is still applicable and in effect as the coronavirus pandemic remains ongoing. Sellers should be aware that New York revised its price gouging statute, effective June 6, 2020, to impose increased penalties against those who price gouge essential items during a pandemic.

The OAG wishes to thank Amazon for its assistance with this investigation and looks forward to continued cooperation with the company.

The investigations of Northwest-Lux, Mobile Rush, and EMC were handled by former Assistant Attorney General Melissa O’Neill, with assistance from Legal Assistant Christine Reynolds, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia and Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine — all of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau. The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Economic Justice, which is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.