Amazon is struggling to prevent profiteering as “bad actors” attempt to cash in on coronavirus fears by raising prices of masks and sanitisers by as much as 2,000%.
The US company said it had removed “tens of thousands” of listings but analysts have likened the situation to a game of whack-a-mole with products reappearing soon after deletion.
“There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” the company said. “We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and we have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers.” Staff were monitoring listings around the clock, it added.
With many products sold out or being rationed in stores, shoppers have turned to online retailers to order masks, hand sanitiser and even hazmat suits. Other websites including eBay, Walmart and Etsy have also struggled to get a handle on profiteering by sellers.
The rogue listings belong to the third-party sellers which generate about half of all sales on the Amazon site. These sellers list items directly on its marketplace and in some cases use the company’s logistics to get their products to customers. Traders who break the company’s “fair pricing policy” risk having their accounts suspended or their selling privileges removed.
Last month the World Health Organization expressed concern about some misleading Amazon listings, including fake coronavirus treatments – leading to the removal of more than 1m products from the site.
A search for “coronavirus” on the website now brings up disparate products ranging from £9 nasal sprays that promise to treat the “cause of virus infections” to £20 medical ID bands and testing kits for dogs and cats.