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N4T Investigators: Pandemic profiteering

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TUCSON - Six rolls of toilet paper have been advertised on eBay for $9,000, a dozen rolls for $7,200 and four bottles of hand sanitizer for $800. Pandemic profiteering has been rampant.

Shoppers we spoke with outside the Fry’s supermarket at Ina and Thornydale Road said they wouldn’t pay a hundred dollars for a package of toilet paper.

They said sellers asking ridiculous prices are simply greedy, trying to take advantage of shoppers' fear.

In Arizona, price gouging is legal.

The state is one of a few without price gouging laws.

About two states offer consumers protection against it.

For example, New Mexico can impose fines of up to $25,000 for selling items for, “unconscionably excessive prices.”

“It is despicable but in Arizona it's not legally despicable,” said former attorney general, Terry Goddard.

Goddard tried four times, starting in 2004, to get the legislature to pass a price-gouging law.

Opponents thought it infringed on capitalism and the free market. They say if you don't like the high prices, don't pay them, but don't prohibit sellers from charging whatever they want.

Goddard told the News 4 Tucson Investigators he disagrees.

"I think this state needs to join the others and say basically that business practices are fine, making a profit is fine, but gouging the public is not fine,” Goddard said.

State Representative Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson) said price gouging is "absolutely outrageous."

Engel said she will sponsor a bill in the next session that would make price gouging illegal.

“It's very sad that we even have to pass a law about this," said Engel. "It seems like just common sense and common compassion for your fellow man out there that you wouldn't do that, you wouldn't try to profit from this situation."

An eBay spokesperson told the News 4 Tucson Investigators the company has decided to remove listings for items like face masks and hand sanitizer, due to concerns that inflated prices may violate laws in states that have them.

eBay said it will use digital and manual surveillance tools to remove listings and products as necessary.

If you see price gouging online, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission. If you see it in stores, you can contact the Arizona attorney general.

Matthew Schwartz

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