Amazon will continue to combat third-party sellers for price-gouging as the spike in coronavirus cases brings on a second wave of panic buying.
Ahead of the winter season, essential products like paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning items are seeing a resurgence in demand, allowing bad apples to scheme higher prices. In addition to basic necessities, a new class of cold-weather products, like propane heaters and fire pits, are also subject to price gouging as consumers find ways to extend the use of outdoor spaces.
As a result, Amazon is stepping up its policing forces in removing offers and suspending seller accounts for price gouging. Since the onset of the pandemic, Amazon has removed over a million products.
“We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to take advantage of this global health crisis and, in addition to removing these offers, have suspended more than 10,000 selling accounts,” an Amazon spokesperson told FOX Business. “We have referred the most egregious offenders to federal and state law enforcement across the country to hold them accountable. We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”
The e-commerce giant called on federal prosecutors and state attorneys general to advance price gouging investigations and resolutions, as well as the need for a “strong federal anti-price gouging law.” Only two-thirds of the United States prohibit this type of activity, which creates a “significant challenge for retailers working to “protect consumers and comply with the law.”
Ambiguity across state lines also muddies what constitutes price gouging, where some states define it as a price ranging from 10% to 25% above average sales prices while others forbid “unconscionably excessive” price increases. Amazon’s proposals include new legislation that allows the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to go after scammers and to establish clear pricing standards.
With winter impending, more consumers are rushing to replenish their original essentials stockpiled during global lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, putting online marketplaces at stake.
A new survey from Inmar Intelligence shows that roughly 57% of shoppers are considering restocking in fear of a “potential second wave of COVID-19” and the consequent vacant grocery store shelves. Inmar, a technology and data analytics service, found that 27% of those shoppers are concerned about the safety of in-store shopping in the likelihood that a second wave occurs, casting a heightened spotlight on e-commerce platforms.