(CBS News) - Amazon has booted nearly 4,000 sellers for what the ecommerce company called “seeking to profit off the COVID-19 crisis.” More than half a million offers were pulled from the biggest U.S. online marketplace and more than 3,900 accounts suspended for violating Amazon’s fair pricing policies, the retailer said.
“Amazon strictly prohibits sellers from exploiting an emergency by charging excessively high prices on products and shipping,” the company said Monday in a blog post.
“We have deployed a dedicated team that’s working continuously to identify and investigate unfairly priced products that are now in high demand, such as protective masks and hand sanitizer,” the company added.
Amazon also said it is working with law enforcement officials. The company is “proactively sharing information with state attorneys general and federal regulators about sellers we suspect have engaged in egregious price gouging of products related to the COVID-19 crisis,” the retailer said.
As the coronavirus spreads around the U.S., some consumers have turned to hoarding goods like toilet paper, while retailers including Walmart are limiting purchases of products such as eggs and milk. Others sensed a business opportunity and started selling hard-to-get products for many times their former value on Amazon, eBay and other sites.
Amazon earlier this month scrubbed its site of outlandishly priced face masks and hand sanitizers. U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, found that most of the products cost at least 50% more than usual on Amazon in the weeks after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global health emergency.