The Great Toilet Paper Crisis of 2020 has brought out the worst in many Australians and on sites like Ebay and Amazon, it’s really showing. Looking to make a quick buck during the artificially created crisis, dozens of listings on the sites are selling toilet paper and other coronavirus-related products for exorbitant prices.
In light of the coronavirus outbreak abroad, Australians have been scouring supermarkets for ‘essential’ supplies such as tinned foods, long-life milk and toilet paper. It’s led to many supermarkets being depleted of their regular supplies and causing social media to go into a frenzy over toilet paper supplies in the country.
While it’s not great that some Australians are hoarding supplies leaving others without access to them, a number of listings on online marketplaces show something more nefarious is happening â€” opportunists are selling the supplies at exorbitant supplies.
Gizmodo Australia has found a number of listings across popular sites such as Ebay and Amazon Australia of items such as toilet paper and face masks being sold for prices higher than they usually would â€” some reaching into the thousands.
Another listing on Ebay was selling a 48-roll pack for $100,000. It’s likely a joke but it won’t be if someone actually buys it.
Ebay Australia said it referred its disaster and tragedy policy when it came to opportunists stockpiling necessary supplies and flogging them off at outrageous prices. It said it was working to remove any listings that violate this policy.
“Ebay does not allow sellers to list items that attempt to capitalise on disaster or tragedy. We are conducting regular sweeps of the site to remove items such as face masks, hand sanitiser and toilet paper listed at inflated prices,” an Ebay spokesperson told Gizmodo Australia.
“Sellers of these items and repeat offenders may be subject to a number of actions including account restriction.”
While Amazon Australia had less listings of overpriced goods, Gizmodo Australia still found a few including an online store called Virus Shield Australia, which had been set up recently and sold only coronavirus-related products. Right now, it’s selling toilet paper packs for double the regular retail price.
“There is no place for price gouging on Amazon. 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 long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers,” an Amazon spokesperson said to Gizmodo Australia.
“We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”
That policy, in particular, is Amazon’s fair pricing policy, which prevents products from being sold for artificially-inflated prices.
Despite the policy, Virus Shield Australia and its overpriced products are still online at the time of writing.
In the meantime, Ebay Australia is working to remove the offending listings but it says if members can report any that don’t look right, it’ll help the situation out further.
“Maintaining a safe marketplace is of utmost importance to us,” the Ebay spokesperson said.
“While we take every step to be vigilant against listings that break our rules, Ebay is Australia’s largest online marketplace with 1.4-billion global listings. We encourage members of the community to let us know if something doesn’t look right.”
Gizmodo Australia has contacted the ACCC for comments regarding the legality of toilet paper scalpers and it confirmed it’s not technically illegal.
“The ACCC cannot prevent or take action to stop opportunistic excessive pricing like this, as it has no role in setting prices and increasing prices is not in of itself conduct that breaches the competition and consumer laws,” a spokesperson said to Gizmodo Australia over email.
“However, a business may be breaching the Australian Consumer Law if they make misleading claims about the reason for price increases.
“Where a person conducts a one-off sale, or infrequent sales, on an auction site or online marketplace, they may not be considered to be acting in trade or commerce, and the Australian Consumer Law would not apply.”
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This article was originally published on March 5.