Alabama attorney general partners with Facebook to combat price gouging during coronavirus pandemic
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Friday announced a partnership with Facebook to combat “unconscionable” online price gouging of Alabamians during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Marshall last week announced that Alabama’s price gouging law is now in effect due to the issuance of a State Public Health Emergency by Governor Kay Ivey on March 13.
The Facebook partnership unveiled Friday is the first announcement by Marshall in a comprehensive new effort to enlist the nation’s largest technology companies to stem the tide of price gouging of consumers seeking to protect themselves from coronavirus.
“There is no question that unscrupulous operators are trying to take advantage of Alabamians looking to buy basic necessities to protect and sustain themselves and their families during the ongoing coronavirus epidemic,” Marshall stated.
“What’s more, much of that illegal activity is centered online because many consumers find it easier to purchase supplies on the internet due to lack of local availability or self-quarantining. As my office seeks ways to protect our consumers, I am pleased to announce that Facebook is one of several major e-commerce platforms to respond to my call to participate in a coordinated effort to identify and shutdown online price gouging,” he continued.
Facebook has reportedly pledged to work directly with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office to review and remove, as necessary, potential price gouging listings and advertisements from its site. The company has already committed to take proactive steps to fight price gouging and deception, including banning advertising or sale of medical masks, hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes and COVID-19 testing kits, as well as prohibiting products that imply a cure or claim to prevent people from contracting the virus.
“Facebook truly appreciates Attorney General Marshall’s work to combat price gouging online,” said Will Castleberry, vice president of state and local public policy for Facebook. “Facebook is focused on preventing exploitation of this crisis for financial gain and will continue working closely with attorneys general to remove violating content.”
Although what constitutes an unconscionable price is not specifically set forth in Alabama state law, a price that is 25% or more above the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days — unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost in connection with the rental or sale of the commodity — is a prima facie case of unconscionable pricing, per Marshall’s office.
The penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, and those determined to have willfully and continuously violated this law may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.
Alabamians who want to file an illegal price gouging report are encouraged to do so online here or by calling 1-800-392-5658 to receive a form by mail to complete and return.
Marshall expects to soon announce more partnerships with other technology companies who have also agreed to work with his office to combat price gouging in the Yellowhammer State.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn