The Wall Street Journal reports the retailer Amazon is having a difficult time addressing falsely labeled protective gear and price-gouging sellers, as anxious shoppers load up on supplies to combat the Coronavirus outbreak. Many sellers did not have federal certifications for the safety standards they were peddling and items were counterfeit, or falsely labeled. Even more concerning is the fact that sellers were pricing items well above their common price in the market.
A few days earlier, Amazon banned 10,000 users for price gouging behaviors and removed at least 1 million products for making phony health claims in the middle of disease outbreaks across the globe. The dishonest online sellers are using the health emergency for profit, while hundreds of stores have low inventory of face masks and hand sanitizer products. Inaccurate information and price-gouging are of great concern as customers will pay too much for products that may not even be safe, or provide the degree of germ protection a buyer is expecting. Other online marketplaces, such as Facebook and eBay, have instituted a comparable ban on products that are tied to false claims about the Coronavirus that may give buyers a false sense of security, while simultaneously creating an increased sense of alarm while they try to profit from the outbreak
Sales of hand sanitizers in the U.S. were up 73 per cent in the four weeks ending February 22 compared to a year ago, according to market research firm Nielsen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advocate for simple, but thorough hand washing with soap and water to protect against the virus. The agency suggests warm or cold water with lathered soap for at least 20 seconds making sure to reach the backs of hands and throughout fingers and nails before rinsing. Hand sanitizer is a quick fix if a person is unable to reach a sink, and those sanitizers that are at least 60% alcohol should be used to kill germs. Public areas such as malls and sports arenas are adding more hand sanitizer stations, while workplaces are increasing their available stock. Purell, the best-selling hand sanitizer, is pumping up production. Walmart and other stores say they are talking to suppliers to stock up bare shelves, but didn’t say how long that could take.
Unless masks are specialized to create a closed environment around the nose and mouth, they may not be effective to protect from the virus when individuals are exposed to someone who is sick. Healthy people should not be wearing masks, as their main purpose it to attempt to stop droplets from sick individuals from spreading.
Self-quarantine may be effective against the spread of disease, and in some areas, officials are advising people to avoid dense crowds, cancelling certain recreational and work-related activities to avoid the mass grouping of individuals that are not screened. Along with reduced public interactions, individuals should avoid touching their face and mouth, as the virus can enter the body through the eyes, mouth and nose.
As the Coronavirus continues to spread, and health officials become closer to a means to contain it, treat it and provide a vaccine for it, Americans must act with calm and ethical consideration for each other. At some point, aside from banning sellers from open marketplaces, and removing inaccurate or misleading sale items, Amazon and like sellers may think about legal action specific to this type of behavior. The alternative to this market action is for government bureaucrats to control production and distribution of goods and services which will disrupt the free market.