Amazon Blocks 1 Million Misleading Coronavirus Product Listings

Amazon said it has blocked more than 1 million products from sale that inaccurately claimed to protect against, or even cure, the novel coronavirus, as online misinformation around the virus’ spread becomes an increasing cause for concern.

The company said it has also removed tens of thousands of deals from merchants that involved price-gouging for health-related products.

Amazon said in a statement the offers had violated Amazon’s “long-standing” policy on fair pricing, which bars pricing practices that harm “consumer trust”, such as pricing that is “significantly higher than recent prices on or off Amazon”.

“There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” the company stated.

Image credit: CDCC

Price gouging

The company said it is continuing to monitor its marketplace for third-party sellers and to remove offers violating its price-gouging policies.

It said it is also continuing to take action on accounts that list products with suspect or misleading coronavirus-related claims.

Its responses can include suspending or removing selling privileges, Amazon said.

The company has added a notice to searches for coronavirus-related searches that directs users to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information about prevention and treatment of the novel coronavirus and the flu-like condition it causes, designated Covid-19.

In spite of Amazon’s efforts, prices on the site for some virus-related products appear to be continuing to rise, at times showing dramatic increases.

Last week a package of 100 disposable face masks, the best seller in Amazon.com’s “medical face masks” category, was priced at $15 (£12), four times the price it cost a few weeks ago, according to data from Keepa cited by Wired.

By the weekend the same product had risen to at least $66, with similar products offered for around $50.

Misinformation

Amazon’s efforts come as the coronavirus continues to spread around the world from its starting point in central China, with more than 2,700 deaths in China and 57 deaths in 46 other countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which put the total confirmed cases worldwide at more than 82,000.

While the majority of confirmed cases are in China, the virus has spread rapidly through South Korea, Iran and Italy over the past week.

Earlier this month the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it was concerned about misleading listings on Amazon, including fake treatments for the disease, which it said were causing mass confusion.

The WHO urged tech companies to work against the spread of online misinformation about the coronavirus and Covid-19.

The outbreak has led to the cancellation of several major tech industry events, including this year’s Mobile World Congress and Facebook’s F8 developer conference.

Tech giants including Apple and Microsoft have acknowledged they expect the virus to lead to weaker earnings, with Apple closing some stores and admitting the outbreak is affecting iPhone production.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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