Price comparison on Amazon shows large increases amid pandemic

Posted at 4:54 PM, Jan 08, 2021

Price gouging has been a concern throughout the pandemic. Now, we're getting a new look at the large increases that are still happening.

A report released Thursday by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund examined 750 products from both Amazon and third-party sellers in 15 different categories.

The consumer group looked at the price of the listing on Dec. 1 of 2019 compared to Dec. 1 of 2020. It found 409 listings saw price increases of more than 20%, and 136 at least doubled in price.

“Typical price increases that you can see can range anywhere from 10%, 15% or staying relatively stable, so this number of increases is very large,” said Grace Brombach, Consumer Watchdog Associate at U.S. PIRG.

The products the analysis looks range from toilet paper to patio heaters. About 36% of the toilet paper increased in price by at least 20%. For patio heaters, 61% increased by at least 20%.

“Amazon has responded saying that they have both automated and non-automated systems in place to detect price gouging on their site and we believe that they are doing a lot to combat price gouging but being such a giant in the marketplace, we believe also that they have a responsibility to remove all of these listings or to send warning letters to these sellers,” said Braddock.

Amazon tells U.S. PIRG in part "sellers set their own product prices in our store. We have a long-standing policy against price gouging, have processes in place to proactively block suspicious offers, and monitor our store 24/7 for violations."

A total of 37 states currently have laws that help authorities fight price gouging during national or state emergencies. U.S. PIRG says having this law on a federal level would set a standard. It would also make it so price gougers could be prosecuted across state lines.

Amazon says it has also advocated for a federal price gouging standard.

Using a price tracking tool like Keepa is one way to make sure you're not being ripped off online.