As a heat wave is scorching the UK and Europe with record-breaking temperatures, people are searching for and buying products to help beat the heat.
But this is resurfacing potential price gouging issues on eBay, Amazon, and other marketplaces that were rampant during the height of the Covid pandemic.
Online searches for air conditioning units and fans on eBay have quadrupled and tripled respectively in Britain alone over the last week Reuters reported on Tuesday.
According to Amazon’s Best Seller page, today’s top products on Amazon.co.uk include small and large fans, water replacement filters, inflatable paddling pools and supplies, ice cube trays, and even a personal space air cooler.
But it’s not just online that shoppers are looking for relief.
Retailer Argos told Reuters on Monday that sales of fans last week rose 1,876% versus the week before, while sales of air conditioning units were up 2,420% and sales of paddling pools were up 814%.
Clearly, there is a huge demand for these products and some sellers may try to take advantage of this situation.
While there have not been widespread media reports of price gouging (yet), we have found a few examples with an electric fan on eBay and suspect there are even more issues.
Electric Fan on eBay for £925 ($1,100)
An electric desk fan that used to cost around £17 ($20) is now selling for nearly £925 ($1,100) on eBay UK, our research shows.
We found the same fan being offered by other sellers for around £200, including some sellers who do not claim it’s the “last one.” That is still about £180 more than they sold for just a few weeks ago.
The fan has no brand name, so it appears to be some generic Chinese-made product that sellers can easily buy in bulk for a few dollars per unit.
Simply put, these listings appear to be in violation of an eBay policy that specifically states “inflating the price of goods in response to an emergency or disaster is not allowed.”
Some sellers may have innocently raised the price of the last unit to avoid a sale because they are waiting on more stock. This is a common tactic used by sellers to maintain their product’s search ranking (SEO) on eBay.
But it’s confusing to buyers and risky for sellers. Just last year, eBay reminded sellers again about its zero-tolerance on price gouging which at one point caused the marketplace to remove hundreds of thousands of listings in a matter of weeks.
There is no way for eBay to know if a seller is price gouging or just trying to maintain SEO. Either way, it’s not a good practice and eBay, as well as other marketplaces, use better technology today to identify and remove such listings.
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