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Online sellers gouging hand sanitizer prices amid coronavirus scare

The KVUE Defenders found several examples of inflated prices for disinfectant products on Amazon's website.

AUSTIN, Texas — Amid growing public concern over the coronavirus, Amazon is fighting price gouging of disinfectant products on its website. 

Last week, Texas grocer H-E-B added a notice to the top of its website, announcing a limit on how many disinfectant products customers could purchase. And earlier in February, Austin retailers reported selling out of face masks

On Tuesday, the KVUE Defenders found several examples of price gouging on Amazon's website, including multiple hand sanitizer options priced well above regular costs. 

One pack of six bottles was priced at $579, another six-pack of sanitizer was listed at about $80 and one two-pack of sanitizer was listed with a $70 price tag.

Brad Streicher with the KVUE Defenders reached out to Amazon to find out what was happening.

"There is no place for price gouging on Amazon," a spokesperson from Amazon said in a statement. "We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers. We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies."

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The Office of the Attorney General regulates price gouging in Texas, but those laws only go into effect when the governor declares a disaster. That has not happened in Texas with the coronavirus.

“Price-gouging is un-Texan and will not be tolerated in our state,” Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday in a joint statement. “The state of Texas will work to ensure that anyone who engages in this act is held to account. As we work to address the coronavirus, it is essential that the public has access to health and wellness supplies that can help mitigate any potential spread. We will work to combat any attempt to exploit public health and safety for monetary gain.”

Medical experts and public health officials have recommended several preventative actions for people to take to protect themselves from exposure to coronavirus, including avoiding contact with people who are sick, not touching your face, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, washing your hands frequently and covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, then throw those tissues in the trash. Check the Centers for Disease Control's website for updates on the coronavirus.

There is no need for members of the general public to wear surgical face masks if they are healthy. 

People can always file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General when they believe they encountered unfair pricing or business practices. You can file one of those complaints online, through email or via phone. 

WATCH: University of Texas at Austin researchers developing coronavirus vaccine

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