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Amazon Sellers Are Marking Products As 'Collectible' To Get Around Price Gouging Rules

Published by Slashdot on Sat, 30 May 2020


Amazon has suspended thousands of third-party sellers for price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic, but sellers have found a loophole to avoid detection when raising prices: labeling their products as "collectibles," even if there's no conceivable way they could be. The Verge reports: Take this Bowflex dumbbell set, which my colleague Casey Newton encountered while browsing Amazon. Before it sold out in mid-March, Amazon had been selling the weights for $279. This week, the only available weights were from 20 sellers who were offering the dumbbells for between $899 and $1,275 (with free shipping). All had listed the item as "collectible." The automated systems that detect price gouging appear not to monitor products if their condition is listed as "collectible" rather than "new."[...]The collectible loophole has existed for some time, sellers say, but before the pandemic, it was rarely used, because sellers only ran into price ceilings when an item was unusually popular and in short supply [...]. But with COVID-19, entire product categories -- cleaning supplies, webcams, home gym equipment -- saw unprecedented demand. Supply-chain disruptions meant some items were already running low, and safety concerns in Amazon's warehouses meant they took longer to restock and ship out. Amazon, and then sellers with normally priced goods, quickly sold out. The remaining sellers raised their prices, sometimes deliberately and sometimes using automated repricing software, and started running into price ceilings. As Amazon's marketplace came under strain, mechanisms that typically work in the background were brought to the fore.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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