Amazon is being accused of price gouging by selling bottles of water at nearly four times its normal cost to Floridians eager to stock up in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, it was reported on Wednesday.
Locals in Florida have cleaned out grocery stores of key necessities and supplies just days before one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic is expected to make landfall.
Yet some of those who are looking to the e-commerce site were angered to see what they say is an attempt by Amazon to profit off an impending disaster.
‘I’m in Tampa trying to buy water online because stores are out of water and this is crazy price gouging!’ one Twitter user tweeted, attaching a photo of a 24-bottle case of Dasani water that sells online for $22.20.
Amazon was selling 24-packs of Aquafina water for $20, even though it usually sells for less than $6.
Amazon is being accused of price gouging by selling bottles of water at nearly ten times its normal cost to Floridians eager to stock up in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. Shoppers are seen above waiting for a shipment of water Wednesday in Altamonte Springs, Florida
One Twitter user wondered aloud whether charging $21.95 for a gallon of distilled water constituted price gouging
This Twitter user based in Tampa wanted to buy a case of water that sold on Amazon for $22.20
Diana Moskovitz posted this screenshot of an Amazon page which offered expedited shipping of a case of water for $179.25
Another Twitter user, Diana Moskovitz, said that she looked into using Amazon Prime to ship more water to her family in South Florida.
‘Check out the price they quoted me,’ Moskovitz tweeted.
The photo attached to her tweet shows a screenshot of Amazon’s page in which a 24-bottle case of Nestle water is sold for $18.48 – which does not include an expedited shipping and handling charge of $179.25.
One possible explanation for the higher prices is an algorithm Amazon uses known as ‘dynamic pricing.’
Floridians shopping for water on Amazon noticed that prices were higher than usual, leading to accusations of price gouging
Cases of water which usually sell for $6 were instead selling for nearly four times that amount
Similar to a practice employed by ride-sharing app Uber, Amazon uses an algorithm which automatically adjusts pricing based on demand.
Whenever demand for a certain product spikes, the price is bumped up as well, according to CBS Moneywatch.
Those who use Uber have reported a sharp spike in prices for rides during peak travel times.
On New Year’s Eve, some Uber riders said they paid some $200 for a ride, according to Time.
Dynamic pricing is legal, though experts say that whenever it is noticed during times of crisis like a major storm or a terrorist attack, it inevitably leads to accusations of price gouging.
Amazon denied that it uses a ‘surge pricing’ or that its practices amount to gouging.
‘We do not engage in surge pricing,’ a spokesperson for the company said.
‘Amazon prices do not fluctuate by region or delivery location. Prices on bottled water from Amazon, and third-party sellers that are doing their own fulfillment to customers, have not widely fluctuated in the last month.’
One possible explanation for the higher prices is an algorithm Amazon uses known as ‘dynamic pricing.’ Similar to a practice employed by ride-sharing app Uber, Amazon uses an algorithm which automatically adjusts pricing based on demand
The Florida Attorney General’s Office told the Miami Herald that even though Amazon is not based in Florida, it could be in danger of running afoul of state price gouging laws.
‘If a business is selling an essential commodity to persons who are using it in Florida as a result of the emergency, the business may be subject to Florida’s price gouging law,’ the office said in a statement.
Last week, authorities in Texas vowed to vigorously prosecute price gougers taking advantage of locals as they braved the floods brought by Tropical Storm Harvey.
One gas station was accused of selling fuel for $20 a gallon, while another business was said to have sold bottles of water for $99 per case, according to The Washington Post.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office said that it had received a total of 600 complaints from residents who reported alleged instances of price gouging.
‘The attorney general of Texas is taking swift and aggressive action to prosecute price gouging,’ Texas Governor Greg Abbott said.
‘If you price gouge anybody, you could be subject to penalties of up to $25,000 per incident.’