Amazon sold items at inflated prices during the epidemic according to Consumer Watchdog

Amazon has been accused of price hikes on essential items such as toilet paper and antibacterial soap in a report by consumer rights group Public Citizen. The report analyzed more than a dozen products, including items sold by third-party vendors and items listed as “sold by Amazon”. It found that between the months of May and August, prices rose more than quadrupled the prices of some items, seemingly breaking Amazon’s own fair-price policy.

Reacting to the report, Amazon said that there was “no room for price going” on its service, including selling products directly. “Our system is designed to provide customers with the best prices available online and if we see an error, we work faster to fix it,” a spokesperson said.

But the report challenges Amazon’s claims that only third-party listings by “bad actors” have seen price increases during the epidemic on items such as face masks and hand sanitizers. Amazon has taken a tough stance on vendors publicly tapping the demand for hygiene products and home supplies, and says the practice has been banned by thousands of vendors.

Items listed as “sold by Amazon” saw a price increase of anywhere from 48 percent for hand sanitizers (a product category that Amazon said it banned back in March) to disposable, according to Public Citizen. Up to 1,000 percent for a pack of face masks. . For example, in the case of toilet paper, the nonprofit group stated that it is selling a pack of eight rolls for $ 36.39 in June, while other retailers charge just $ 6.89 for the same product. A bottle of antibacterial soap was listed at a high level of $ 7 compared to a low level of $ 1.49, an increase of 470 percent.

Along with examining ten essential items sold by Amazon, the report also analyzes eight items sold by third-party vendors. Such vendors account for a quarter of Amazon’s online retail revenue according to recent earnings reports. Here the public citizen got an increase of 274 percent for antibacterial soap and 941 percent for flour.

While the report found plenty of examples where third-party price trackers found large disparities between the highest and lowest prices charged for items, in other cases it shows how difficult it is to see how many items have historically sold. Have, and therefore an idea of ​​what their value really should be. Prices fluctuate rapidly, making it difficult to guess what a typical price is, and which prices are errors or outliers.

Take face mask as an example. Although the Public Citizen’s report highlights an alarming increase in price from $ 4 to $ 39.99 for a pack of 50 masks listed as “sold by Amazon,” it notes that the new listing for the face mask Amounts make it “hard to make apples”. Comparison of-to-apple. The quote of the report for this original $ 4 price for the face mask comes through a Wired The report, published in February, pointed to now-removed listings for packs of 100, not 50, masks.

Public citizens are invoking new federal laws that clearly establish the point at which the price increases, pricing goes up and what items they apply to (Amazon itself introduced the new federal regulation in May Called back for), but also for Amazon to improve their listings. More transparent pricing. The advocacy group wants Amazon to link to a price history next to each product listing, and end its practice of allowing new product pages to be created for items that are already listed in its service, other Between the reforms.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the report by Public Citizen had identified a small number of pricing errors. He said Amazon had “removed more than a million offers to attempt a price increase” and suspended more than 10,000 sales accounts.

“We have referred the most qualified offenders to federal and state law enforcement nationwide,” the spokesman said. “We actively monitor our shop and remove offers that violate our policies.”