AMAZON and eBay have been accused of allowing third-party sellers to flog thousands of essential items for double the price compared to supermarkets.
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Amazon and eBay have both taken steps to stop price-gouging by removing thousands of listings or suspending accounts, but many are still slipping through the net.
An investigation by the consumer group found that hand sanitiser, cleaning products and toilet rolls from big brands such as Andrex, Carex, Dettol and Kleenex, were being listed online for hiked prices.
More than half (56 per cent) of the products listed on the first page of search results for “Carex” on Amazon were being sold for five times the typical supermarket price tag.
Some of the items were shockingly being listed for 10 times the high street price.
How to spot price gouging
WHICH? has put together a guide to price gouging and how you can spot it.
Price gouging is when a seller heavily inflates the products or services that are in high-demand.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a number of sellers hiking prices for products such as hand sanitiser and bleach products.
Before buying any product that is in high-demand, consider whether the price is reasonable.
If it seems ridiculously expensive then the chances are you’ll be paying over the odds for it.
Shop around and compare prices before handing over your cash and check out what well-known retailers are charging to get a better idea of what a reasonable price is.
Some unscrupulous sellers will use phrases to pressure you into buying their product, such as “selling fast”, “42 looking at this product now” and “in high-demand”.
Don’t fall for their tactics.
Also keep an eye out for inflated postage costs as this may be where the seller is hoping to make a profit.
When the consumer group searched for “Dettol” on the website, six in 10 of the listings on the first page were double the supermarket price or more.
Similar results were found on eBay, where 81 per cent of the results for Carex were being sold for twice the supermarket cost, and 85 per cent of Dettol items were also double the cost.
It’s not the first time that the online retailers have come under fire for allowing sellers to take advantage of the pandemic.
Back in March, Lidl hand sanitiser worth 50p was being sold on eBay for £40 as fears of the disease spread.
At the time, the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) warned retailers that they could be fined if they inflate prices during the outbreak.
How to report price gouging listings removed
IF you spot price gouging you should report it to avoid other buyers being tricked into paying over the odds for goods.
Firstly, you should report it to the retailer where you saw the item listed, such as eBay or Amazon, so that they can remove it.
It’s worth taking a screenshot of the listing which includes the price, the seller’s name and the date.
To report it to Amazon, you’ll need to go through their contact us/help pages.
Meanwhile, on eBay you should click the “report this listing” button that’s underneath every button.
Otherwise, you can send your screenshot and details of the listing to your local Trading Standards team.
Which? recently launched a “price-gouging” tool where shoppers can report examples of the inflated prices.
Sue Davies, from Which?, said: “While welcome, it’s clear that measures being put in place by online marketplaces are not enough to stop coronavirus profiteering by those seeking to exploit the current situation.
“The government, working with the CMA, needs to step in with emergency legislation to enable swift action to crack down on price-gouging and keep the price of essential items reasonable during crises both now and in the future.”
A spokesperson for Amazon said that there was “no place” for this kind of behaviour on its site.
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They added: “When a bad actor attempts to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis, it’s bad for customers and the hundreds of thousands of honest businesses selling in our store.”
“In line with our long-standing policy, we have recently blocked or removed hundreds of thousands of offers and pursued legal action against bad actors.”
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An eBay spokesperson slammed the research as “irresponsible” before removing all of the listings Which? flagged to them.
It said: “eBay gives people a great way to access the items they need – especially during lockdown – and we invest heavily in measures to ensure they can do so safely.
“While a small minority of unscrupulous sellers do attempt to take advantage of other users, effective safeguards have been in place for weeks to prevent this.”