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Senate Democrats urge FTC to investigate COVID-19 test price gouging

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Senate Democrats urge FTC to investigate COVID-19 test price gouging
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, along with Sen. Edward J. Markey, penned a letter to the Federal Trade Commission Wednesday, asking chair Lina Khan to investigate price gouging when it comes to COVID-19 tests. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Calling it "predatory and profiteering," two U.S. Senators called on the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday, to investigate price gouging over COVID-19 tests.

In a letter to FTC chair Lina Khan, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Edward J. Markey implore the commission to look into the illicit activity, as case numbers and hospitalizations soar amid the rise of the Omicron variant.

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"The demand for these test kits by Americans concerned about their health, trying to protect friends and family from infection, or in need of a negative test for work, travel, or child care, has led to supply shortages and empty shelves across the country," Blumenthal and Markey write the letter.

"These conditions are unfortunately ideal for predatory and profiteering behavior, including the sale of fraudulent test kits or charging exorbitant prices for those that are available."

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It urges Khan and the FTC to "be vigilant and respond immediately to any such illicit activity."

The letter goes on to say that multiple state attorneys general and the media have reported that "consumers have recently experienced price gouging when attempting to purchase at-home test kits, including being charged double or triple the regular retail price of the product."

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"Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to warn consumers about the risk of buying fraudulent diagnostic tools as they seek to protect their families from the coronavirus," the letter said.

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Further, the letter reinforces that the commission "is authorized to investigate, take enforcement actions, and issue rules to address 'unfair or deceptive acts or practices' across much of the nation's commerce."

The two senators call on the FTC to investigate immediately, saying "no one should be allowed to reap a windfall and fraudulently exploit fear and human suffering."

"We can think of nothing more unfair, deceptive, and harmful than the exploitation of public health concerns for profit during a global emergency ... we strongly urge the FTC to act as necessary and use its full authority to investigate the situation and hold bad actors accountable without delay," they said in the letter.

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On Friday, the federal government announced it was purchasing 1 billion at-home rapid tests to distribute free across the country.

The government website to register and access half of those tests launched Tuesday. Tests are limited to four per household.

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