Americans Face Price Gouging for Hand Sanitizers, Other Virus Protection Products

Americans Face Price Gouging for Hand Sanitizers, Other Virus Protection Products

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MONDAY, March 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Some Americans say they're seeing much higher-than-normal prices for products such as face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, as demand outpaces supply due to fears over the new coronavirus.

"When I went in to pay, she said $50, and I think that's disgusting, and they're taking advantage of people right now," a woman in New Jersey who went to six stores before finding hand sanitizer told CBS News.

As soon as hand sanitizer comes in, "it's off the shelf," said Leon Tarasenko, the owner of Pasteur Pharmacy in Manhattan. "When an order comes in, within about an hour, it's all gone," he said. "We try to keep it to a limit. Three to a customer."

Online sales of virus protection products have spiked 817% in the last two months, and prices have skyrocketed, CBS News reported.

It said that two large bottles of Purell hand sanitizer that normally sell for about $9 a bottle were on sale for $299 on Amazon. Another listing offered four boxes of masks -- usually about $20 -- for more than $1,000.

Amazon said it's blocking or removing thousands of offers where it says "bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis," and states and cities are taking action, CBS News reported.

Businesses that violate price gouging laws "better be prepared to pay the price for your lawbreaking," California's attorney general warned, and New York City will levy $500 fines to any stores found price gouging.

"This is not a time to be trying to make a quick buck on the backs of hard-working people who are just very anxious and scared," said Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner Lorelei Salas, CBS News reported. "The businesses are going to have to make sure that they either are keeping the prices what should be a normal fluctuation or they'll have to justify the price increase."

The best ways to protect yourself are to wash your hands for 20 seconds and avoid touching your face, experts say. They explain that masks are useful for people who are already sick -- so they don't infect others -- but wearing a mask won't protect you from getting the virus, CBS News reported.

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