A mother and her son look at the empty bakery shelves in a supermarket on July 23 2007

Source: Joseph Curl

Amazon has come down on a couple who have been bragging about making a fortune off the coronavirus by selling cleaning items at highly inflated prices.

“A Vancouver couple who’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning out Costco store shelves of Lysol cleaning products and reselling them at higher prices on Amazon have had their account suspended, the online retail giant said Friday,” the Toronto Star reported.

“I can confirm their account was blocked for violating our policy around inflating prices,” Amazon spokesperson Andrew Gouveia told the paper.

Manny Ranga and Violeta Perez were observed this week outside a Costco store near downtown Vancouver loading the back of their Ford F-150 truck with stacks of Lysol disinfecting wipes.

Ranga said that a six-pack of wipes, which might sell for $20 at Costco, could fetch four times that online, representing a “big opportunity.” He said the couple had spent about $70,000 on Lysol wipes and liquid cleaners over the past few weeks and made more than $100,000 in sales to individuals and businesses.

Reached by phone Friday, Ranga said he objected to the way he and his wife were portrayed in the story and that the fallout was potentially jeopardizing their livelihoods.

Amazon is cracking down hard on price-gougers hoping to cash in on the virus, saying there is “no place for price gouging,” on the platform.

“We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed hundreds of thousands of offers,” the company said in a  statement. “We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”

Amazon hit another pair of alleged gougers hard. Two brothers, Matt and Noah Colvin, had been “filling a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes,” The New York Times reported.

They then listed the items on Amazon, with hand sanitizer selling for between $8 and $70 each, The Times said.

The next day, Amazon pulled his items and thousands of other listings for sanitizer, wipes and face masks. The company suspended some of the sellers behind the listings and warned many others that if they kept running up prices, they’d lose their accounts. EBay soon followed with even stricter measures, prohibiting any U.S. sales of masks or sanitizer.

Now, while millions of people across the country search in vain for hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Colvin is sitting on 17,700 bottles of the stuff with little idea where to sell them.

Many states outlaw price gouging. California, for instance, bans selling commodities, household essentials, and fuel after a declared state of emergency for more than 10% over the cost of these items immediately preceding the declaration. Those found guilty of selling those commodities at inflated prices face up to a year in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.

In New York, selling “goods and services vital and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of consumers” at an “unconscionably excessive price” (as determined by the court) during a declared state of emergency is banned. Gougers face up to $25,000 civil penalty per violation, says FindLaw.com.