Watchdog Accuses Major Retailers of Price Gouging

With corporate profits at 50-year highs, consumer protection advocates are crying foul
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2022 1:45 PM CDT
Watchdog Accuses Major Retailers of Price Gouging

In a new report, nonpartisan watchdog Accountable.US cries foul over massive profit increases by America’s top 10 retailers. Here is how CBS MoneyWatch sums up the group's report: “Instead of keeping prices stable for struggling families, corporations have overcharged Americans and prioritized profit.” Overall, the top 10 companies saw total profit increases of $24.6 billion, totaling $99 billion during the two recent years under review. In return, Accountable.US argues, the companies have lavished benefits on shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks, and CEOs have enjoyed extra-padded pay.

Inflation is certainly real and rising, and economists and investors alike are waiting and worrying over potential interest-rate hikes. With a current one-year inflation rate of 8.5%, it’s starting to look and feel like the early 1980s. Ongoing supply-chain issues and labor shortages—not to mention uncertainty surrounding the war in Ukraine—are all problematic for any business. But none of that is hurting corporate profits, which are at 50-year highs, and Accountable.US is not the only group to take notice. Earlier this month, PBS’s Paul Solman interviewed former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who said: “This isn’t about inflation. This is about price gouging.” Reich later tweeted, “Don’t be fooled. This is about corporate greed.”

Amazon, CVS, Lowe’s, and others did not immediately reply to CBS inquiries, but Home Depot sent a statement saying the report “is misrepresenting” the reasons for the company’s profit gains: “We’re continuously working with our suppliers to keep costs as low as possible for our customers." Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig told CBS: "It's time corporations finally help shoulder the burden average Americans have taken on throughout the health crisis. Corporations can start by stabilizing prices for consumers instead of pursuing even higher profits.” (More consumer prices stories.)

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