Coronavirus: US man who stockpiled hand sanitiser probed for price gouging

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Mr Colvin bought all of the hand sanitiser he could find in stores across TennesseeImage source, Getty Images
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Matt Colvin bought all of the hand sanitiser he could find in stores across Tennessee

A man who stockpiled 17,700 bottles of hand sanitiser to sell on Amazon is being investigated for price gouging.

Matt Colvin, from Chattanooga in Tennessee, told the New York Times he had faced a "huge amount of whiplash".

Online platforms have cracked down on sellers listing coronavirus-related items at inflated prices.

Mr Colvin later said he would donate his goods but on the same day Tennessee's attorney general opened an investigation, the Times reported.

Mr Colvin said that from 1 March, the day after the first coronavirus-related death in the US was confirmed, he and his brother had spent three days driving across Tennessee, buying up all the hand sanitiser they could find.

He then listed the bottles on Amazon, selling some for as much as $70 (£57).

Amazon then deleted listings of hand sanitiser, sanitising wipes and face masks with marked-up prices, while eBay outright prohibited the sale of any of these items.

After the initial article was published, Mr Colvin faced a major backlash, with many accusing him of attempting to profit off a global crisis.

He expressed remorse in a follow-up interview, saying he "had no idea that these stores wouldn’t be able to get replenished".

Price gouging - the act of re-selling an item in high demand with a "grossly excessive" price mark-up - is prohibited in the state of Tennessee if the governor has declared a state of emergency.

If found guilty, a person can be fined up to $1,000 (£813).

In a statement, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said: "We will not tolerate price gouging in this time of exceptional need, and we will take aggressive action to stop it."