New reports released this week serve as a cautionary tale for consumers who shop at Amazon, by far the largest online retailer in the US. While complaints about Amazon’s third-party vendor marketplace are by now commonplace, the new reports find that not only did Amazon itself price-gouge customers during the height of the pandemic, but also that many of its white-label, Amazon-branded products are just as likely to be dangerously defective as third-party goods.
Product shortages—both for pandemic-related supplies such as masks and sanitizer and also for basic household goods such as toilet paper—hit nationwide in February, March, and April as the country shut down and everyone who could holed up at home. As tends to happen when demand skyrockets but supply doesn’t, prices on a wide range of items went up. And up. And then up some more.
By March, regulators were desperately trying to stem the tide of price gouging flooding online retailers, especially Amazon’s sprawling third-party Marketplace.