LAWRENCE, MA. – SEPTEMBER 24: Member of the U.S National Guard load space heaters and fire alarms into civilian cars in Lawrence Massachusetts on September 24, 2018 (Staff Photo By Faith Ninivaggi/Boston Herald)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

A Lawrence city councilor is asking that the attorney general’s office look into a third-party seller on Amazon he says increased the price of portable camp showers by 50 percent after his wife reached out to the company.

Councilor Marc Laplante, in a letter yesterday, asked the AG to “review the matter to make sure that there is not price gauging (sic) by this company to take advantage of the conditions of those in my city who are suffering from this disaster.”

“I am concerned that a company may be taking advantage of the crises we are facing in the Merrimack Valley,” the letter read.

A spokeswoman from Amazon yesterday said the company is looking into the matter but that “third-party sellers set their own prices.”

According to the letter, the product, which is increasingly being donated to residents of Merrimack Valley in need of hot water, cost $19.99 on Sept. 26 and was $29.99 on Sept. 30.

Asked about the matter yesterday, Gov. Charlie Baker said, “One of the things that I appreciated the attorney general doing with Mayor Rivera last week was going up to Lawrence and sitting down and talking to people about issues associated with scammers and price gouges and all the rest, and we certainly will work with the attorney general to ensure that any outreach that needs to be done through her consumer affairs operation to address that issue gets addressed.”

As the Herald reported yesterday, Laplante on Sunday tweeted concerns that the price of portable showers had jumped and wondered “how are we going to be able to use them if people can’t afford them?”

He added: “To jack prices and take advantage of a disaster is unconscionable.”

Laplante has been vocal about the importance of the showers to those struggling to get by in the aftermath of gas explosions that wreaked havoc on the Merrimack Valley last month. He said the showers are “a big deal” and can be an important resource for a basic necessity that can be used in residents’ own homes while they wait for service to be restored.

The series of gas explosions and fires that erupted in the communities of Andover, North Andover in Lawrence on Sept. 13 have left more than 8,000 households without gas.

Columbia Gas, which serves the communities, has embarked on a massive project to replace some 48 miles of gas mains in the three communities. Service lines to many individual homes also need to be replaced, and all gas appliances in affected homes including boilers, water heaters and stoves need to be tested for damage.

Gas service is estimated to be back on line for residents by Nov. 19.

The blasts killed one person, injured some 25 others and damaged or destroyed dozens of homes and businesses.