Prices for masks on Amazon are surging

Global stocks fall as virus cases spread


Hygienic masks designed to stop the spread of illnesses like coronavirus are swelling in price online after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the respiratory illness could create severe disruptions in the U.S.

The U.S. government said Americans should prepare for a Covid-19 crisis on Tuesday as the illness continues to spread across the globe. Within 24 hours, online prices rose on some medical face masks meant to shield people from viral infections.

On Amazon, one pack of disposable masks that was priced at $125 on Sunday surged to $220 per pack on Wednesday, according to data from Keepa, which tracks price changes on Amazon.

Another pack of basic sanitary masks was priced at $4.21 in early January and gradually increased over time. By Tuesday, the pack of 100 basic masks more than tripled, reaching $14.99, Keepa found. A day later, the price jumped another $3 before the product was pulled from the marketplace. 

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The U.S. government has not declared coronavirus a pandemic. It also isn’t suggesting that people go out and buy masks to protect themselves. Still, third-party sellers are attempting to monopolize on the fears that could spark growth in demand for both cheap and pricier masks.

WIRED reported Tuesday that the top best-seller in Amazon’s “Medical Face Mask” category surged to four times the price. The product listed by a company called Kidirt has since been removed from the website. A third-party seller offering medical-grade N95 respirator masks hiked prices from $38 to $81 on Tuesday, according to Keepa data.

Face mask.

Amazon sent an email to sellers warning them about masks that were not in compliance with its Fair Pricing Policy, WIRED reports.

Amazon wasn’t immediately reachable for comment about the price gouging, but it’s not the first time this has happened on the platform. The tech giant’s pricing policy caused a stir in 2017 when bottled water prices surged after Hurricane Irma hit.


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