U.S. markets closed

$400 for Purell? U.S. lawmaker urges Amazon to tamp down price gouging

WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc should stop third-party sellers from price gouging for items like Purell hand sanitizer as people seek to protect themselves from the coronavirus, U.S. Senator Edward Markey said in a letter to the online retailer on Wednesday.

A box of small Purell bottles that usually sells for $10 was listed online for $400, he said. One third-party seller listed a bottle for $600 on Wednesday afternoon. However, the Amazon brand of hand sanitizer was listed for $8.25 for a large bottle.

Amazon was not immediately available for comment but last week it barred more than 1 million products that inaccurately claimed to cure or defend against the coronavirus.

The virus, which first erupted in China, has sickened more than 94,000 people globally and killed 3,220. The disease was recently detected in the United States and has killed 11 people in this country.

"As the world confronts the prospect of a serious and far-reaching pandemic, corporate America has a responsibility to prevent profiteering on the sales of items such as hand-sanitizer and surgical masks," Markey wrote in his letter.

Markey asked the online retailer to respond to his questions about its anti-gouging efforts by March 18.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)