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Online prices skyrocket in Italy amid coronavirus fears

Online retailers in Italy have found an easy way to take adv..

Online retailers in Italy have found an easy way to take advantage of widespread coronavirus panic: hawking sold-out products for exorbitant prices.

While pharmacies run out of sanitizing products and masks, the same items appeared online at inflated prices set by individual merchants.

A 250 ml. bottle of Amuchina — a popular hand sanitizer which normally costs €7.50 — was sold for €50 on eBay Monday. A one-liter bottle of the same product reached a record price of €799.

Overpriced common products were displayed as specifically conceived to protect against the virus, even if they are not.

Politicians and consumer groups promptly pointed the finger at online merchants and platforms.

“This is not free market [but] a shameful speculation that has to be stopped immediately,” reads a parliamentary question submitted Monday by Partito Democratico MP Marianna Madia. The center-left group is part of the governing coalition.

Codacons, a major Italian consumer organization, filed a complaint Monday with 104 public prosecutors offices across the country. It also notified the Italian antitrust watchdog, accusing vendors of fraud and unfair commercial practices.

Even if prices displayed on e-commerce websites such as Amazon or eBay are freely determined by merchants according to supply and demand, the organization believes that platforms should share the blame.

Amazon made clear in a statement that only sellers have the power to determine prices, and promised to delete pages which do not comply with internal rules. Consumer groups, however, see things differently.

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