Products such as hand sanitizer have been sold for as much as 7 times the normal price.
A 250 milliliter bottle of Amuchina — a popular hand sanitizer that normally costs €7.50 — was sold for €50 on eBay Monday. A 1 liter bottle of the same product reached a record price of €799.
Overpriced common products were displayed as specifically conceived to protect against the virus, even if they are not.
Politicians and consumer groups promptly pointed the finger at online merchants and platforms.
“This is not free market [but] a shameful speculation that has to be stopped immediately,” reads a parliamentary question submitted Monday by Democratic Party MP Marianna Madia. The center-left group is part of the governing coalition.
Codacons, a major Italian consumer organization, filed a complaint Monday with 104 public prosecutors’ offices across the country. It also notified the Italian antitrust watchdog, accusing vendors of fraud and unfair commercial practices.
Even if prices displayed on e-commerce websites such as Amazon or eBay are freely determined by merchants according to supply and demand, the organization believes that platforms should share the blame.
Amazon made clear in a statement that only sellers have the power to determine prices, and promised to delete pages that do not comply with internal rules. Consumer groups, however, see things differently.
Even if “e-commerce giants” are not directly responsible for charging excessive prices, reads Codacons’ complaint, they should be considered “accomplices” if they fail to remove overpriced products from their websites.
Even consumer representatives acknowledge the difficulty of monitoring online platforms.
“Amazon announced it is removing overpriced products from its website,” said a spokesperson for Codacons, “but we doubt they will manage to remove all these pages in real time.”
Seven people have so far died in Italy from the novel coronavirus.
This article has been updated to reflect the number of coronavirus fatalities in Italy.
Online retailers in Italy have found an easy way to take advantage of widespread coronavirus panic: hawking soldout products for exorbitant prices.While pharmacies run out of sanitizing products and masks, the same items have appeared online at inflated prices set by individual merchants.