... according to consumer watchdog
According to Public Citizen, items listed as “sold by Amazon” saw price increases of anywhere from 48 percent for hand sanitizer (a product category that Amazon said it had placed restrictions onback in March), to 1,000 percent for packs of disposable face masks. In the case of toilet paper, for example, the non-profit group said it found a pack of eight rolls being sold for $36.39 back in June, while other retailers have charged just $6.89 for the same product. One bottle of antibacterial soap was listed at a high of $7, compared to a low of $1.49, an increase of 470 percent.
As well as investigating ten essential items listed as sold by Amazon, the report also analyzed eight items sold by third-party sellers. Such sellers account for a quarter of Amazon’s online retail revenue, according to its most recent earnings report. Here Public Citizen found increases of up to 274 percent for antibacterial soap and 941 percent for flour.
Although the report found plenty of examples where third-party price trackers found large disparities between the highest and lowest prices charged for items, in other cases it shows just how hard it is to see how much items have historically sold for, and hence get an idea of what their price should actually be. Prices fluctuate rapidly, making it hard to gauge what a typical price is, and which prices are errors or outliers.
Take face masks as an example. Although Public Citizen’s report highlights an alarming 1000 percent increase in price from around $4 to $39.99 now for a pack of 50 masks listed as “sold by Amazon,” it notes that the amount of new listings for face masks makes it “difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons.” The report’s citation for this original $4 price for face masks comes via a Wired report published in February, which points towards a now-deleted listing for a pack of 100, not 50, masks.
Public Citizen is calling for new federal laws which clearly establish the point at which price increases become price gouging and which items they apply to (Amazon itself called for new federal regulation back in May), but also for Amazon to reform its own listings to make pricing more transparent.