Commerce Clause

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Price Gouging, the Amazon Marketplace, and the Dormant Commerce Clause

By Julia Levitan

This Note argues that states can regulate price gouging on the Amazon Marketplace without offending the dormant commerce clause. Part I provides an overview of state price gouging statutes and enforcement efforts. Part II examines the reported price gouging, including on the Amazon Marketplace, in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Part III explains the dormant commerce clause jurisprudence, with a particular emphasis on the doctrine’s application to state laws governing internet activities. Part IV considers the dormant commerce clause implications of regulating price gouging on the Amazon Marketplace and concludes that state price gouging laws can be enforced against both Amazon and its third-party sellers without violating the dormant commerce clause. Part IV also places the two enforcement targets in an optimal deterrence framework and identifies Amazon as the ideal regulatory target to effectuate robust enforcement of price gouging prohibitions.

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