Archive for the ‘price gouging’ Category

Price gouging and defective products rampant on Amazon, reports find

September 11th, 2020
Amazon's orange-yellow logo wall.

Enlarge / Amazon's orange-yellow logo wall. (credit: David Ryder/Getty Images)

New reports released this week serve as a cautionary tale for consumers who shop at Amazon, by far the largest online retailer in the US. While complaints about Amazon's third-party vendor marketplace are by now commonplace, the new reports find that not only did Amazon itself price-gouge customers during the height of the pandemic, but also that many of its white-label, Amazon-branded products are just as likely to be dangerously defective as third-party goods.

Product shortages—both for pandemic-related supplies such as masks and sanitizer and also for basic household goods such as toilet paper—hit nationwide in February, March, and April as the country shut down and everyone who could holed up at home. As tends to happen when demand skyrockets but supply doesn't, prices on a while wide range of items went up. And up. And then up some more.

By March, regulators were desperately trying to stem the tide of price gouging flooding online retailers, especially Amazon's sprawling third-party Marketplace.

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Posted in amazon, amazon basics, Biz & IT, Policy, price gouging, product safety | Comments (0)

3M sues price-gougers who used Amazon to sell masks at 1,800% markup

June 10th, 2020
A store window includes a bust of Michelangelo's David.

Enlarge / The (replica) disembodied marble head of David probably didn't need a 3M mask, but he nonetheless looked fashionable sporting it in the window of a jewelry shop in Switzerland in March 2020. (credit: Christiane Oelrich | picture alliance | Getty Images)

3M—which manufactures N95 filtration masks that have been in high demand since the COVID-19 pandemic began—is suing merchants who used Amazon to sell 3M and counterfeit masks for more than 18 times their standard price.

A group of third-party merchants on Amazon "operated an illegal scheme to advertise and sell counterfeit, damaged, deficient, or otherwise altered respirators" to customers, 3M alleges in the complaint (PDF), filed in federal court in California.

3M has drastically increased its production of N95 respirator masks, the company says, but has kept its pricing between $0.63 and $3.40 per mask, depending on the model. The resellers in the suit, however, were allegedly selling a model that has a typical list price of $1.27 for for an average of $23.21 per mask, more than 18 times higher than 3M's price.

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Posted in 3M, Biz & IT, COVID-19, masks, N95 masks, Policy, price gouging | Comments (0)

Company fails to deliver promised cheap ventilators, now charging 4x the price

April 10th, 2020
A man performs a test at a ventilator manufacturing workshop at the offices of Formon, a 3D printer manufacturer in Pristina, Kosovo on April 5, 2020.

Enlarge / A man performs a test at a ventilator manufacturing workshop at the offices of Formon, a 3D printer manufacturer in Pristina, Kosovo on April 5, 2020. (credit: Armend Nimani | Getty Images)

The Dutch company that received millions of taxpayer dollars to develop an affordable ventilator for pandemics, but never delivered them, has struck a much more lucrative deal with the federal government to make 43,000 ventilators at four times the price.

The US Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that it plans to pay Royal Philips N.V. $646.7 million for the new ventilators—paying more than $15,000 each. The first 2,500 units are to arrive before the end of May, HHS said, and the rest by the end of December.

Philips refused to say which model of ventilator the government was buying. But in response to questions from ProPublica, HHS officials said the government is purchasing the Trilogy EV300, the more expensive version of the ventilator that was developed with federal funds.

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Posted in COVID-19, Policy, price gouging, science, ventilators | Comments (0)

States, feds try to end scourge of coronavirus price-gouging

March 26th, 2020
Image of 100-dollar bill with a surgical mask photoshopped across Benjamin Franklin's face.

Enlarge (credit: Anton Petrus | Getty Images)

As the nation and the world reel from the COVID-19 pandemic, many goods are in short supply and high demand. That basic economic formula means prices are going up—way up. Among the nation's largest digital storefronts, a combination of individual sellers out to make bank and algorithmic pricing that may or may not have a basis in reality has resulted in a wave of exploitative price gouging that state and federal regulators are trying to put to a stop.

Attorneys general representing 33 US states and territories yesterday signed letters (PDF) urging online retailers to set and enforce policies banning price gouging on their platforms during this emergency.

"While we appreciate reports of the efforts made by platforms and online retailers to crack down on price gouging," the attorneys general wrote to Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, and Walmart, "we are calling on you to do more at a time that requires national unity."

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Posted in amazon, attorneys general, coronavirus, COVID-19, department of justice, eBay, Facebook, Justice Department, Policy, price gouging | Comments (0)