Amazon tries to curb speculation with the price of masks


A pack of 100 went from costing 3 dollars on Saturday to 130 this Tuesday. The technology giant tracks the web identifying the merchants who make the product more expensive

The outbreak of the coronavirus outside China has triggered the sale of medical devices in Spain, where the demand for masks has increased by 10,000% compared to January last year, according to the latest data from the Federation of Pharmaceutical Distributors (Fedifar). This has caused pharmacies to run out of stock and users to turn to the Internet to get them. Some merchants who use Amazon to sell their products have taken advantage of the situation to increase the prices of masks and disinfecting gels, the most requested items. In response, the company is crawling its website “on an ongoing basis” identifying merchants who put these amounts oversized.

“Business partners put their own prices in our store,” explains an Amazon spokesperson. But, even so, they must comply with the fair pricing policy established by the company. “We are actively crawling our website and will withdraw offers that violate any of our policies.” This action is a response to the escalation of prices that have been observed in hygiene products in recent days due to increased demand. This Wednesday, the best seller in the health and personal care section of Amazon Spain was a hand sanitizer gel and several packs of disposable masks. Different types of these hygiene products, along with thermometers and antiseptic wipes, are among the 20 most requested items by customers.

As a consequence, prices have increased. A package of 100 generic disposable masks went from $ 3 on Saturday to $ 130 on Tuesday, according to data from Keepa, a company that tracks prices on Amazon. The increase coincides with the detection of new cases of coronavirus in Spain, despite the fact that this type of protection is not useful to avoid contagion. This Wednesday it had dropped to 35 euros. FFP2 protection masks, unlike disposable ones, prevent small particles in the air and are used more frequently to protect against virus transmission. The price of a pack of 5 has gone from costing 13$ to 89$ in just three days. The increase has coincided with the arrival of the coronavirus in Italy.

The health authorities are not recommending the use of masks and emphasize much more effective measures, such as careful hand washing with soap and water.

Price control

More than half of the items available on Amazon are put up for sale through merchants who use the platform to sell their products. It is in these items sold by third parties where price escalations have been seen in recent days. To prevent these businesses from taking advantage of emergencies, the company establishes a fair price based on the amounts of those same products in previous weeks and even what they cost on non-Amazon websites.

The giant is crawling its website to detect that the items conform to its policy and alert merchants when it does not. If these sellers keep increasing their prices, some of the consequences include the offer being withdrawn, suspending the shipping option, or, in the event of a repeat offense, temporarily or permanently suspending the merchant’s selling privileges.

Shoppers have complained on social media about high prices for supplies on Amazon. It has also been hotly debated among users on the company’s official sales forum over the past week. This is not the first time these complaints have been made, it has also happened during other emergencies. When Hurricane Irma approached Florida in 2017, for example, rising bottled water prices sparked an online protest. On that occasion, Amazon told USA Today that they were proceeding as they are now: “We are actively monitoring our website and eliminating bottled water offerings that substantially exceed the most recent average selling price.” This is a standard protocol in the company.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that authorities in Italy, the country with the largest outbreak of the disease in Europe so far, had launched an investigation into online prices they defined as “insane” for medical supplies, though without mentioning anywhere. specific website.

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