The FINANCIAL — The online retail giant removed more than 1 million fake and overpriced coronavirus listings from its online marketplace in an effort to stop sellers from profiting off fear. Facebook said it has banned misleading ads on coronavirus this week while Google has helped to promote official information from the WHO. Some Amazon sellers say their inventory is running low and factory closures in China mean they may not be able to restock products.
Amazon has barred more than 1 million products from being sold on its platform after they were found inaccurately claiming to cure or defend against the coronavirus. While the e-commerce giant has worked to combat price-gougers and sellers hawking false claims about their products, Amazon’s platform is still far from free of coronavirus-related exploitation. Other tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter have also mobilized to help rid their platforms of misinformation as the virus spreads and general anxiety rises. Facebook said it has banned misleading ads on coronavirus this week while Google has helped to promote official information from the World Health Organization (WHO) in its search function, according to Daily Mail.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed concern about some misleading Amazon listings earlier this month, including fake treatments. The WHO said fake coronavirus claims online were causing mass confusion, and urged tech giants to combat the spread of misinformation. A search for “coronavirus” on Amazon brought up results for face masks, disinfectant wipes and newly-published books on viral infections, revealing how some sellers are cashing in on the health crisis. It also offered results for vitamin C boosters – a fake cure for the virus that has been widely disseminated online. Amazon has not provided a list of those products it says it has removed, but a BBC search for “coronavirus” on the online site suggests many products are still being sold at unusually high prices. In one example, a 50-piece stack of surgical masks from one seller cost more than £170, while a popular alternative of the same product is on sale for approximately £36. Even that cheaper product has still risen dramatically in price since early January, when it cost less than £10, BBC reported.
“Amazon has always required sellers to provide accurate information on product detail pages and we remove those that violate our policies,” an Amazon spokesperson told the outlet. A spray disinfectant claimed that it could be used “against coronavirus” and met the Centers for Disease Control and Protection’s criteria, according to CNBC. Peter Dornau, President and CEO of Star brite, the company that makes the disinfectant , told CNBC that Amazon took down the listing after the CDC statement was added by a third-party merchant, The Kansas City Star wrote.
“Sellers set their own product prices in our store and we have policies to help ensure sellers are pricing products competitively,” the spokesperson said. “We actively monitor our stores and remove offers that violate our policies.” But that doesn’t stop people from buying them at elevated prices anyway, CNN Health reported.
Some Amazon sellers say their inventory is running low and factory closures in China mean they may not be able to restock products. Amazon has been advising sellers on how to manage the impact of the coronavirus on their businesses. Earlier this month, the company sent a notice to sellers advising them to cancel previously placed orders that they’re no longer able to fulfill. The company also suggested they put their businesses in “vacation status” to protect their listings from being demoted in search results by its ranking algorithms. Sellers said Amazon will push listings down further in search results if it detects they are running low on inventory or are out of stock, according to CNBC.