Wednesday 25 March 2020 12:01 am

Amazon and Ebay blasted over failure to crack down on virus profiteers

Amazon and Ebay are failing to clamp down on coronavirus profiteers using their platforms to sell products at “ridiculous” prices, a new investigation has revealed.

Third-party sellers have been accused of exploiting the pandemic to ramp up prices for products that are difficult or impossible to find in local shops.

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Household items including cleaning products, thermometers, baby formula and tampons were most frequently subject to price gouging, according to the research by consumer group Which.

Overpriced listings included a £40 thermometer price at £300 on Ebay and £150 on Amazon.

A £3 bottle of disinfectant was on sale for £29.99 on eBay — a markup of up to 1,000 per cent — and was more than three times the recommended price on Amazon.

Meanwhile on Ebay’s auction site a bundle of three bottles of Dettol spray and three packets of antibacterial wipes was advertised for £210 following a flurry of bids.

The investigation also found that both ecommerce sites were failing to use filters and other checks to adequately protect customers.

Earlier this month the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned it would take enforcement action against any traders found to be taking advantage of customers during the pandemic.

The watchdog has since set up a coronavirus taskforce designed to stamp out unfair practices and advise the government on emergency legislation to protect consumers.

While some listings were removed during the course of the investigation, Which urged Amazon and Ebay to take more effective action against profiteers.

“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,” said Sue Davies, head of consumer protection at Which.

“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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An Ebay spokesperson said all items identified in the investigation had been removed, while the website last week announced new measures to prevent price gouging.

An Amazon spokesperson said: “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 long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers.”