Consumer Brands Association urged Attorney General William Barr to protect Americans from price gouging of consumer packaged goods as sellers take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a letter Monday, the lobbying group’s executive vice president of public affairs, Bryan Zumwalt, requests that the Department of Justice collaborate with federal, state and industry partners to prevent price gouging for consumers. As USA TODAY has reported, prices are experiencing hikes on high-demand items, such as hand sanitizers, tissues, face masks and other products.
“Absent federal engagement, Consumer Brands fears that price gouging for consumer products – which has been on the rise in recent weeks – could have the severe adverse impact of preventing consumers from obtaining the preventative consumer products they need to protect themselves from the spread of COVID-19,” the letter reads.
The group, which represents brands such as Coca Cola, Clorox and Colgate-Palmolive, predicts that a continued price hike could discourage Americans to pay excessive prices for these products and lead to a decrease in necessary preventative actions.
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As for states that have already acted against price gouging, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, for example, whose state has been hit the hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, said his office is investigating and asked for residents to file complaints if they spot gouging.
Companies such as Amazon and eBay have also made efforts to curb third-party sellers who stock the virtual shelves and hike up prices. One listing included a four-pack of 30-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer for $118.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States have surpassed 560 across 34 states and the District of Columbia. The U.S. death toll rose to 22, while the worldwide total approached 4,000.
Follow Coral Murphy on Twitter @CoralMerfi