March 19, 2020 / 5:02 PM / 20 days ago

Amazon asks shoppers to cooperate with U.S. probe of coronavirus price-gouging

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, March 19 (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc has started asking customers to cooperate with a Department of Justice criminal investigation of third-party sellers on its e-commerce marketplace, according to an email seen by Reuters.

The company is informing customers, who may have purchased products from such sellers, according to the email, which was sent by Joell Parks, a senior law enforcement response specialist at Amazon.

The company has come under pressure from lawmakers to nab sellers who have taken advantage of fears of the spreading coronavirus and engaging in price-gouging on its website.

On Wednesday, four lawmakers, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and antitrust subcommittee chairman David Cicilline, sent a letter to the Justice Department asking the agency to investigate the matter.

Earlier this month, the company said it is working with state attorneys general to identify and prosecute such third-party sellers and has restricted the type of merchants who can sell health and sanitation items on its website. reut.rs/2x9dQul

“We wanted to notify you directly about this matter in the event that you are contacted by the Department of Justice in connection with its investigation,” Parks said in his email, which was sent to a Reuters editor who is also an Amazon customer.

Despite these steps, consumer advocacy groups said they have spotted listings of essential items with unusual price spikes on the website.

It was not immediately clear if the probe would also deal with more than two dozen people who were charged in a federal court in Dallas for being part of a crime ring in which thieves shoplifted goods from stores across the United States and sold them on Amazon.

The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington and Anna Driver in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler

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