Amazon warns coronavirus face mask sellers not to increase prices
Amazon warned sellers about selling masks 'not in compliance' with its pricing policies
Amazon is warning sellers on its platform not to inflate face mask prices amid global concerns about the new coronavirus, according to emails obtained by tech news magazine Wired.
Hospitals around the world are facing a shortage of masks and other supplies as producers face increasing demand and longer work hours, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Ninty-six percent of local U.S. pharmacies said they were selling masks faster than they could replace them, according to a survey published Feb. 6 by The National Community Pharmacists Association.
Amazon warned sellers about selling masks "not in compliance" with its pricing policies, Wired reported. Amazon did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.
Amazon's "Fair Pricing Policy" requires its sellers to set fair prices for its products that are not "significantly higher than recent prices offered on or off Amazon" and mislead buyers.
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"Amazon regularly monitors the prices of items on our marketplaces, including shipping costs, and compares them with other prices available to our customers," Amazon's website reads. "If we see pricing practices on a marketplace offer that harms customer trust, Amazon can remove the Buy Box, remove the offer, suspend the ship option, or, in serious or repeated cases, suspending or terminating selling privileges."
The No. 1 product in Amazon's "Health & Household" section is a three-pack of black, "unisex" cotton face masks selling for a whopping $19.99. The masks are made by the Shenzhen, China-based accessory company Aniwon, which markets itself as "a fashion brand which main market in Euro & U.S."
In response to a question from an Amazon user about inserting filters into the mask, Aniwon responded, "Understand that this mask is not made to keep out coronavirus."
The first result for "face mask disposable" on Amazon is a 10-pack of dust-respirator masks selling for $108.90. The second result is a 15-pack of disposable masks selling for $26.49. Another top result for a 125-pack of regular, disposable masks is selling for $220.
"The news coverage is clearly affecting consumer behavior," Brian Caswell, president of the National Community Pharmacists Association and owner of Wolkar Pharmacy in Baxter Springs, Kansas, said in a Feb. 6 statement. "Pharmacists are divided on whether the coronavirus is a serious health threat, but a strong majority of their customers are highly concerned."
"Patients are on edge and they're preparing," he added.
The new coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has spread to 29 countries outside China as of Feb. 24. There have been a total of 77,262 confirmed coronavirus cases and 23 deaths outside China, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. has only reported 14 confirmed cases.
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"It's wise to be prepared, but there's no reason for Americans to panic," Casewell said. "The flu kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. Only a handful of Americans have been diagnosed with coronavirus in this country and there are not yet any fatalities. Americans should remember to wash their hands frequently, avoid crowds if possible, and disinfect the things they touch."