A consumer protection group accuses the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, of abusing prices. The store charged inflated prices for essential items, such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves and other essentials months after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report, released on Thursday, 10, by Public Citizen, examines various products on Amazon’s website. Based on its own observations and data from price-tracking sites, the non-profit organization points to price increases of up to 1,000% when compared to pre-pandemic levels or the prices of other major retailers.
The charge defies Amazon’s public stance, according to which it has no control over price manipulation conducted by some “malefactors” who sell products in its popular online store. The report also claims that the online retailer has raised prices for products it sells directly.
The company, however, denied involvement in such practices. “There is no place for price gouging on Amazon and that includes products offered directly by Amazon,” said a spokesman. “Our systems are designed to offer customers the best available online price, and if we see an error, we work quickly to fix it,” he added.
During the pandemic, there were several complaints about abusive prices, as well as irregular availability, of products in demand such as cleaning supplies. A German regulator also questioned Amazon about prices during that period. In a campaign against inflated reseller prices, 3M sued and then reached an agreement with an Amazon merchant.
Public Citizen advocate for competition policy and author of the report, Alex Harman, says it is “crazy” that Amazon still records abusive prices months later. He suspects that the higher prices identified on Amazon are partly the result of increases in new suppliers that the company hurriedly sought after the pandemic began. However, this does not mean that such prices must reach consumers. “The increase in demand and the lack of supply are literally why there are price-gouging laws,” he concluded.