Price-Gouging and Product-Hoarding


In cases of extremely short supply or high demand, sellers may attempt to profit from the scarcity of essential products and services. This can occur during a natural disaster, pandemic, or another declared emergency. Sellers may drastically raise prices for goods and services. Some may hoard products to sell later at inflated rates. Many states have anti-price-gouging laws for at least some products. These laws limit price increases above a certain threshold, ban prices that are unreasonable, or restrict prices that increase above and beyond a rise in underlying costs. The federal Defense Production Act also prohibits hoarding of materials the president designates as scarce. However, these protections do not always cover all situations. The sale of non-consumer goods (such as businesses needing personal protective equipment), actions taken by suppliers, or actions by third-party sellers including in online platforms may not be protected. These exclusions make it more difficult to prevent and prosecute price-gouging and product-hoarding practices.



Access to essential products and services in emergencies

Policymakers and the private sector should ensure affordable access to essential products and services during declared emergencies. Policymakers should put in place effective prohibitions on price-gouging for the duration of the emergency. They should also consider subsidizing the cost of producing essential products and services.

Retailers and online platforms should take active steps to eliminate price-gouging and product-hoarding practices.