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Amazon sellers use 'collectible' label to dodge price gouging rules

Amazon's policies aren't working as well as they could.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 31, 2020
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Hagerstown, MD, USA - June 2, 2014: Image of an Amazon packages. Amazon is an online company and is the largest retailer in the world.
jahcottontail143 via Getty Images

Amazon’s measures to prevent price gouging have a relatively simple workaround. The Verge has learned that some third-party sellers are marking products as “collectible” to evade Amazon’s automated price controls. The internet retailer reportedly has price ceilings that normally kick in when a product is listed as “new,” but that ceiling apparently doesn’t kick in with collectible items. There also isn’t much transparency regarding those ceilings, either.

The quirk has been around for a while, according to sellers. However, it wasn’t really an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic, when competition kept prices reasonable. Now that there’s high demand and low supply, unscrupulous sellers have more incentives to hike prices.

An Amazon spokesperson talking to The Verge didn’t directly address the anti-gouging measures. Instead, the spokesperson said that sellers set their own prices and that Amazon pulls sales that violate its policies.

This won’t leave many satisfied, though. Customers clearly lose out if they’re trying to get dumbbells or other hot commodities, but the absence of transparency could also make it difficult for more honest sellers who may need to hike prices (say, to offset costs) but don’t want to trip Amazon’s detection systems.

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