Jeanette Mercado was sold a 2-pack of N95 masks on eBay in March for $23.98, a nearly 300% markup from pre-pandemic prices, she alleges in a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Mercado says she was “performing an essential business” and was at high risk for infection due to the close proximity to the public.
Amazon was also hit recently with a suit alleging it unlawfully increased prices on consumer goods.
California law makes any price increase exceeding 10% during a state or local emergency presumptively illegal, the suit says.
The anti-price gouging law was triggered no later than Feb. 3, 2020, when Santa Clara County declared California’s first state of emergency relating to Covid-19, the suit says.
EBay now publicly states that it is trying to stem the use of its platform by sellers who attempt to gouge customers, but its business model encourages price gouging because eBay charges a “final value fee” calculated as a percentage of the total sale, the suit alleges.
Additionally, eBay’s measures, such as a ban on listings for certain products and a price-gouging reporting tool, are “superficial and ineffective,” the suit alleges.
Though eBay has sought to remove “millions” of listings violating the “ban,” any such action fails to effectively stop the ongoing price gouging where on any given day eBay hosts more than 1.3 billion listings, the suit alleges.
The complaint includes screenshots of listings, including a 10-pack of respirators for $415, and five cans of disinfectant spray for $227.50.
Causes of Action: California Unfair Competition Law; California Consumers Legal Remedies Act; unjust enrichment.
Relief: Injunctive relief stopping eBay from continuing the allegedly unlawful practices; restitution; attorneys’ fees and costs.
Potential Class Size: Unknown number of persons in nationwide and California classes, who bought a protected product on eBay.com on or after Feb. 4, at a price 10% greater than the price charged on eBay.com for the same protected product on Feb. 2, or immediately before any declaration of a state of emergency relating to the Covid-19 crisis.
Response: “Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have taken significant measures to block or quickly remove items from our marketplace that are unsafe, make false health claims or violate our zero-tolerance price gouging policy,” eBay said. “We are making every effort to ensure that anyone who sells on our platform follows local laws and eBay policies.”
Attorneys: AK Law ACPC and others represent the plaintiffs.
The case is Mercado v. eBay, Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 5:20-cv-03053, 5/4/20.
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