It has come to light that thousands of essential items have been sold on both Amazon and eBay for double their recommended retail price.
According to consumer watchdog, Which?, both online marketplaces have allowed third parties to sell essential items, including cleaning products and soap, for up to double what they should cost.
Opportunistic sellers have been taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic by selling essential products at inflated prices to anxious buyers.
When did the price gouging begin?
March 2020 saw the first death caused by coronavirus in the UK, and, not too long after, online marketplaces began listing supermarket products at spiked prices as stores began to run out of stock due to panic buying.
Hand sanitisers from Lidl, originally sold in stores for 50p, soon popped up on eBay for £40.
In response to this, the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) clarified that retailers could be fined for inflated prices during the pandemic.
While both Amazon and eBay have attempted to put a stop to these dramatically inflated prices by suspending guilty accounts and removing millions of listings, many are still going undetected.
Which products are most likely to have inflated prices?
Which? found that the most notorious items for price gouging on the platforms, were products which were also in short supply when panic buying hit supermarkets in March.
Among the items with grossly inflated prices were hand sanitisers and cleaning products, as well as toilet rolls.
Andrex, Carex, Dettol and Kleenex, were among the brands being advertised at unfairly raised prices on the online marketplaces, according to the consumer group’s investigations.
How much were prices inflated to on Amazon?
Over 56 per cent of Carex products listed on the first page of Amazon were advertised for five times the supermarket retail price, while some items had prices which were 1,000 per cent higher than normal.
Six out of 10 Dettol products listed on the first page of Amazon were listed at twice the supermarket price, or higher.
An Amazon spokesperson said that there was "no place" for such behaviour on its site.
"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,” the spokesperson explained.
"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.”
How much were prices inflated on eBay?
On eBay, Which? found that 81 per cent of the listings under the search term “Carex” were being priced at double the supermarket amount, while a whopping 85 per cent of “Dettol” search results were similarly listed at twice the price.
How to report price gouging
Price gouging should be reported, to help companies like Amazon and eBay to remove such listings which could exploit other, desperate or vulnerable buyers.
Try taking a photo or a screenshot of the listing, making sure to clearly include both the item and the price, as well as the seller's name and the date.
On Amazon, you have to get in touch with the retailer through their help page. On eBay you can click the ‘report this listing’ button found beneath every listing.
You can also always send your photo evidence and details of the listing to your local Trading Standards team.
Additionally a price gouging tool, recently released by Which?, lets you report examples of inflated prices to warn others.