As with the threat of any hurricane, consumers often buy out the last of water and emergency supplies in supermarkets and other physical retail locations. That prompts many to turn to the internet, particularly Amazon, to get the necessary supplies in a timely manner. For some customers who did just that, they were disheartened to learn that prices were skyrocketing with a case of bottled water going for $18 or higher, reported Business Insider. Add expedited shipping to the mix and that case of water was more than $100. Business Insider pointed to a 24-pack of Aquafina water that normally sells for less than $6 but was going for $20 on Amazon. Meanwhile a 24-pack of Nestle bottled water with expedited shipping could be had for an eye-popping $179.25.
In a statement to Business Insider, Amazon said it is not engaging in price gouging and that prices don’t fluctuate based on region or delivery location. "Prices on bottled water from Amazon, and third-party sellers that are doing their own fulfillment to customers, have not widely fluctuated in the last month," Amazon said in the statement. In an interview with the Miami Herald, Florida's Attorney General’s Office said price gouging on items necessary to survive emergencies is illegal in the state and could be applied to companies not based in the state.
A One-Two Punch
"If a business is selling an essential commodity to persons who are using it in Florida as a result of the emergency, the business may be subject to Florida's price gouging law,” a spokesperson said, according to the report. The leading e-commerce company in the country isn’t the only one to face backlash amid a national calamity—or in this case an impending one. Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY), the electronics retailer, faced flack when some stores in Texas were selling cases of bottled water immediately after Hurricane Harvey for as much as $42 a case. Best Buy told Business Insider the high-priced bottled water was due to a pricing mistake. (See also: Amazon to Launch Prime Now Service in Canada.)
While Amazon could tarnish its reputation a bit with high-priced water, it is the insurance companies that stand to lose the most if Irma hits Florida hard. (See also: Insurance Carriers Breaking Down Ahead of Irma.)
The SPDR S&P Insurance ETF (KIE) broke three-month support and headed into a tailspin on Monday in anticipation of the second major hurricane hitting U.S. soil in less than two weeks. The historic ferocity of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has unnerved institutions with exposure to this blue-chip sector, raising concerns that reinsurance layers will not save insurance carriers from unprecedented losses.