Coronavirus: Amazon and eBay urged to clamp down on price 'profiteering' from pandemic

Some sellers have raised the price of household products by more than 10 times their market value

Matt Mathers
Wednesday 25 March 2020 12:45 GMT
(Getty Images)

Online marketplaces Amazon and eBay have been urged to clamp down on price gougers profiteering on anxieties surrounding coronavirus.

It comes after consumer watchdog Which? found household products being sold at up to 10 times their normal price on the online marketplaces.

Which? found some traders had been selling products such as digital thermometers, disinfectant, hand sanitiser, tampons and baby formula way above the market rate.

It found one case where digital thermometers – which usually cost around £40 – were being sold for £300 on eBay and almost £150 on Amazon.

Which? found the items during a search conducted between March 16 and 19 and called for tougher action and stricter controls to identify and prevent rogue traders charging sky-high prices for essential items.

Despite the findings, eBay and Amazon said they were already taking tough action against price gouging.

eBay said that it had already removed all the items flagged by Which? from its website. Rob Hattrell, eBay UK vice-president, added: “We do not tolerate price gouging on eBay.

“For almost two months we have been introducing increasingly tougher measures to tackle this deplorable practice and will continue to suspend the accounts of those who try to exploit other users.

“The team that is monitoring and enforcing our policies has been more than doubled and we will continue to implement our zero-tolerance stance.”

A spokesperson for Amazon said: “There is no place for price gouging on Amazon.

“We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our longstanding policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers.

“In addition to removing these offers, we are terminating accounts.”

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently warned that traders should not be exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to take advantage of people through price gouging, and threatened to take strong action if the problem persisted.

Sue Davies, head of consumer protection at Which?, said: “These companies must make good on their pledges to stamp out coronavirus profiteering, and, if they fall short, the CMA must be ready to take strong enforcement action.

“The Government should consider how it will work with the retail sector as a whole to keep the price of essential items reasonable as the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak continues.”

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