Unite report Amazon for Coronavirus price gouging

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Were you one of the people who hiked your prices for essential supplies on Amazon at the start of the pandemic? If so then it’s possibly your fault that the Unite union are haranguing the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) regarding alleged abuse of Amazon’s market position in relation to Coronavirus price gouging at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Firstly, let’s be serious, just about everything was in short supply when Covid hit and if you were selling bog roll, hand sanitiser and the likes it was inevitable that not only would you cost of goods rise resulting in price increases, but also if you had repricing software running then your prices probably rose exponentially and automatically.

As part of their Action on Amazon campaign, Unite say that they have uncovered compelling evidence of Coronavirus price gouging throughout 2020. 50 different items have been identified that were being sold on the Amazon site for at least double their usual price from March 2020 to November 2020 onwards. They include soap, antibacterial spray and wipes, washing up liquid, hand wash, bleach, thermometers, face masks, toilet paper, disposable gloves, sanitary products, vitamins, toothpaste, sudocream, tea and tinned food.

Unite also say that Amazon can’t lay the blame on you as a third party merchant:

“Unite understands that Amazon knows a lot about its customers and promotes products to them based on what they like, what they have bought in the past and what they might be interested in next. Amazon can’t outsource responsibility or blame its suppliers.”
– Unite

We’re not talking about a two quid item suddenly costing four quid, Unite point to examples such as Carex antibacterial hand lotion which usually costs around £1 shooting up to £26.41 in March 2020 and the price of a Braun Thermoscan 7 digital thermometer which shot up over £100 – going from £39.99 to £149.99.

“Amazon is steeped in corporate irresponsibility, from its anti-union tactics to tax avoidance and the destruction of millions of items of unsold stock. Now Amazon stands accused of profiting from price gouging on its website at the height of the pandemic when vulnerable people were most at need.

Unite represents Amazon workers but also thousands more pensioners and workers who had to shield during the pandemic. Some of our members died after exposure to Covid 19 while acting as key workers. It’s high time Amazon is held to account for profiteering during the pandemic. We hope our complaint to the CMA leads to a full investigation of Amazon’s practices.”
– Sharon Graham, executive officer for Organising and Leverage, Unite

The CMA are yet to comment, but the reality is that when Amazon saw prices skyrocket they put steps in place to prevent Coronavirus price gouging, suppressing excessively priced ASINs and reminding sellers that “unconsciously excessive” price increases could be against the law unless the seller can show that the increase is due to the increased costs of goods, freight, or labour.

“There is no place for price gouging on Amazon. We worked with the CMA more than a year ago to stop attempts by some sellers to take advantage of the global health crisis. Our action at the time was clear and decisive – we removed the offers referenced in this complaint and terminated seller accounts. We continue to monitor our store 24/7 to remove offers that violate our policies.”
– Amazon Spokesperson

3 Responses

  1. I wonder if Unite know that the sheer wholesale cost of Isopropyl alcohol rocketed due to global shortages because of C19 making a huge impact on retail pricing… of course the consumer think its just price gouging but of course two sides to this story!

  2. There is not ‘two sides’ to this story. There were indeed shortages during the early lockdowns thanks to workers not being available. However, products like alcohol came under the category of ‘essential’ as its used as a health product. Its workforce, as with all healthcare produce producers, was required to work through it. How do I know? My son works for one of the biggest producers of cleaning products in the UK. He, and his workforce worked throughout the pandemic, and productions levels never fell below normal. Well, apart from when he caught Covid.. At no time therefore, was there ANY excuse for massive price increases. Demand obviously outstripped supply initially, but why then, once the hard lockdowns were lifted worldwide, did prices carry on reaching ludicrous levels, and are still at those levels? Because the companies selling them were, and are, gouging customers. End of.


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