Amazon cracks down on coronavirus price gouging and products making false claims

Key Points
  • Amazon has blocked or removed more than 1 million products from its third-party marketplace that made false claims about the coronavirus. 
  • The company also suspended or took down tens of thousands of deals from sellers that it accused of charging customers unfair prices. 
  • Last week, CNBC reported that Amazon told sellers it would remove products claiming to kill the coronavirus.
People are wearing masks at Myeongdong on February 20, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.
Jong-Hyun Kim |Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Amazon is cracking down on price gouging and products that make false coronavirus claims on its marketplace.

Amazon told CNBC it has blocked or removed more than 1 million products that made suspect or misleading claims about the coronavirus. The company said it also suspended or took down tens of thousands of offers from third-party merchants it accused of charging customers unfair prices. Amazon didn't give specific figures for how many listings it removed or suspended for price gouging.

"There is no place for price gouging on Amazon," an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement. The spokesperson pointed to Amazon's "long-standing" policy on fair pricing, which states that the company doesn't allow pricing practices that harm consumer trust, such as setting a price on a product that is "significantly higher than recent prices on or off Amazon."

Amazon is continuing to monitor the marketplace and remove offers that violate its policies on price gouging, the spokesperson said. The company also continues to take action on accounts that list products with suspect or misleading coronavirus claims, including suspending or removing selling privileges, they added.

Amazon also added a notice to searches for "coronavirus," "COVID-19," "n95 mask" and other coronavirus-related content that directs users to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information about prevention and treatment of the disease.

The move comes as the coronavirus continues to spread. At least 2,810 people have died from the disease, while total confirmed cases have risen to more than 82,500. The majority of confirmed cases are in China, but the disease has spread rapidly over the past week through South Korea, Iran and Italy.

Last week, CNBC reported Amazon was removing listings on its marketplace that claimed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Earlier this month, it sent emails to some third-party sellers that said it would take down listings claiming to be a treatment, cure or remedy for the coronavirus. Among the products it removed were listings for a surgical face mask and a spray disinfectant, though the sellers were able to get their listings reinstated after they removed the misleading medical claims.

Third-party sellers were also warned not to hike the price of face masks. A package of 100 face masks, the best-seller in Amazon's medical face mask category, was priced at $15 – almost four times the price it cost a few weeks ago, Wired reported, citing data from price tracking company Keepa.

Amazon was one of several tech giants that met with the World Health Organization (WHO) at Facebook's Menlo Park, California, offices on Feb. 13 to discuss how to stop misinformation about the coronavirus on their platforms.

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