Amazon removes 1 million products for misleading claims, price gouging amid coronavirus outbreak

Lawmakers are calling for online platforms to be held liable for counterfeits.

March 3, 2020, 1:03 PM

Amazon has removed more than 1 million products for misleading claims or price gouging amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, the company confirmed Tuesday.

"There is no place for price gouging on Amazon," a company spokesperson told ABC News. "We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic-need products during a global health crisis, and, in line with our longstanding policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers."

In addition to the tens of thousands of offers removed due to price gouging, the company also confirmed it recently blocked or removed more than 1 million products for suspect or misleading claims as the COVID-19 outbreak fuels worldwide anxiety.

The spokesperson added that Amazon "has always required sellers provide accurate information on product detail pages and we remove those that violate our policies."

PHOTO: A man wearing a face mask holds a box of the American electronic commerce company Amazon in Central district, Hong Kong, Feb. 12, 2020.
A man wearing a face mask holds a box of the American electronic commerce company Amazon in Central district, Hong Kong, Feb. 12, 2020. Coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong, China - 12 Feb 2020 The death toll from the covid-19 coronavirus epidemic past 1, 100 and infected over 45, 000 people worldwide on February 12
SOPA Images/REX via Shutterstock

The move comes after numerous media reports that the cost of face masks and hand sanitizers from third-party merchants was skyrocketing on the platform, and as Amazon was inundated with offers for health products with suspect health claims.

Facebook similarly announced it was banning ads on its platform that guarantee a cure, create a sense of urgency or otherwise attempt to cash-in on the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Monday, a group of bipartisan lawmakers also proposed a new bill, dubbed the Shop Safe Act, which would hold e-commerce platforms accountable for counterfeit goods sold on their sites.

"Consumer lives are at risk because of dangerous counterfeit products that are flooding the online marketplace," Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said in a statement. "Congress must create accountability to prevent these hazardous items from infiltrating the homes of millions of Americans. The SHOP SAFE Act would make families safer by requiring online sellers to help prevent the sale of counterfeit products to consumers."

Hank Johnson, D-Ga., added that "counterfeit products pose significant threats to consumer health and safety and have devastating impacts on businesses."

"Platforms must do their part in ensuring that their sellers are reliable and that their products are authentic," Johnson said. "This legislation makes great strides in addressing the increasing problem of unsafe counterfeit products sold to unsuspecting consumers by encouraging platforms take steps that are reasonable, workable and necessary for keeping dangerous counterfeits out of consumers' hands."

An Amazon spokesperson responded to the proposed legislation in a statement, saying that it "strictly prohibits counterfeit" goods and has invested more than $400 million to fight fraud and counterfeit abuse on its site.

"This past January, we committed to reporting all confirmed counterfeiters to law enforcement to help them build stronger criminal cases that can hold counterfeiters accountable," the statement added. "We are actively fighting bad actors and protecting our store and we will continue to work with brands, government officials and law enforcement."

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