PALO ALTO, U.S./TOKYO -- Amazon and Mercari, a Japanese online retailer, are removing overpriced products such as tissue paper and surgical masks from their platforms to stop vendors profiteering from consumers' coronavirus fears.
"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," said Amazon Japan on Wednesday.
Amazon Japan said it was monitoring the situation, removing such products -- in line with similar moves by its U.S. headquarters -- and suspending vendors. It said that such vendors were violating pricing rules and warned that it would suspend vendors who manipulate prices by bulk-buying and then reselling at a high price.
As coronavirus spreads, masks, hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes are becoming scare in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere. U.S. media had reported instances of masks being sold at five times their normal price.
An Amazon Japan spokesperson said, "We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies."
Amazon forbids vendors from raising prices over a short time and to charge excessive shipping fees. The company said it has a monitoring system to enforce these rules, and when a violation is discovered, the product is removed and the vendor's selling rights suspended.
Mercari, one of Japan's top online marketplaces for secondhand goods, started removing overpriced products on Tuesday.
A spokesperson said Mercari was using artificial intelligence and humans to monitor the site for price manipulation. The company said it would also suspend accounts that sell in bulk and warned vendors that repeat violations could result in selling restrictions.