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As Covid-19 Spreads, Amazon Tries to Curb Mask Price Gouging

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Louise Matsakis Sellers report receiving messages from the company that their face masks are too expensive, while users on Amazon's forum debate the ethics of raising prices during emergencies. On Amazon, prices for the devices have sharply increased in recent weeks, and the company has warned sellers not to raise them to exorbitant levels—or risk getting kicked off the site.Amazon has alerted merchants about face masks that are “not in compliance” with its pricing policies, according to an email provided to WIRED. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans Tuesday that an outbreak was likely to spread to the US, the agency does not currently recommend the general public use face masks—experts say proper handwashing is often more important to prevent the spread of disease.The top best seller in Amazon’s “Medical Face Masks” category, a package of 100 generic blue disposable masks, is going for $15, almost four times what it cost only a few weeks ago, according to data from Keepa, a company that tracks prices on Amazon. Representatives from both 3M and Honeywell said they haven’t raised list prices for their products but can’t control how much third parties charge.Amazon requires sellers abide by its Fair Pricing Policy, which prohibits listing items for significantly more than “recent prices offered on or off Amazon.” The company told at least several mask sellers earlier this month they had violated the rule, according to Ed Rosenberg, a consultant who also runs a support group for Amazon sellers.

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