A watchdog group accused Amazon of price gouging for essential goods sold to direct consumers during the COVID 19 pandemic. The company however is denial mode and has passed the blame of price- hike on third-party merchants.
The world’s largest online retailer and a prominent global cloud services provider is accused of hiking prices for 10 basic products — from cornstarch and flour to high in demand hand sanitizer and face masks — as much as 1,010 percent from February to mid-August, according to a report from Public Citizen which is a left-front consumer right group.
The group has accused that all of the products reviewed were listed as “sold by Amazon” and not sold by third-party vendors which contradicted the claims of Amazon that outside vendors were cashing on the tough times when consumers panicked and were storing essentials in fear of an extended lockdown globally.
“It is troubling that so much effort was put into blaming third-party sellers, but so little effort was made to stop the price increases — including on the products sold by Amazon directly,” Public Citizen said in its report dated Wednesday.
The group identified price hikes ranging from 48 percent to more than 1,000 percent for products listed as “sold by Amazon.” The biggest markup was for a 6.5-ounce package of cornstarch, which Amazon was napped selling for $8.99 while other retailers charge just 89 cents, the report emphasized.
The report further went on to say that a pack of 50 disposable face masks saw an unprecedented hike of 1000 percent — which are considered important for controlling the spread of the coronavirus — that was listed for $39.99. on the website.
The product was for $4 before the pandemic, though it attributed that estimate to a February article in Wired that referenced prices for 100 masks
Other inflations included a 528 percent spike for eight rolls of toilet paper, which went for $36.39 compared to other retailers’ prices of $6.89; and a 470 percent jump for antibacterial soap from $1.49 to $7.
Amazon meanwhile responded by saying that the Public Citizen sampled just a tiny number of the hundreds of millions of products the company monitors. The company said it fixed the problems as soon as they were brought to its attention.
Damage control was immediately was on the way when Amazon’s spokesperson commented, “As we have said, there is no place for price gouging on Amazon and that includes products offered directly by Amazon. Our systems are designed to meet or beat the best available price amongst our competitors and if we see an error, we work quickly to fix it.”
Amazon has previously put the blame on a virus-related price-gouging on “bad actors.” It further commented that it has suspended more than 10,000 selling accounts for attempted price-gouging and referred the worst offenders to law enforcement authorities.