November 24, 2020

3P sellers should avoid the urge to raise prices on necessities

By: Lesley Hensell

Don’t be that seller.

The warning signs are everywhere. Manufacturers and retailers who sell grocery, medical and personal care items expect new runs on necessities in the coming weeks. Already, plans are being made to institute new buying limits on customers at retail stores.

This could easily kick off a new cycle for Amazon sellers eager to profit off of shortages in brick-and-mortar stores. We saw it last spring. Retail arbitrage sellers – and even those with wholesale relationships – increased prices for items in short supply. Once again, shortages could make price gouging tempting.

Amazon sees this as price gouging. And Amazon shuts down accounts for price gouging.

Price gouging

What is price gouging?

It’s difficult to find a dictionary definition of price gouging that includes practical terms, like percentages. Legally speaking, different states have different standards. Like a Supreme Court justice once said about a different hard-to-define topic, “I know it when I see it.”

Most folks can agree that doubling a price during a time of scarcity looks and feels like price gouging, especially for essential items. But on Amazon, the standard it much stricter.

Prior to Covid, when natural disasters hit, Amazon would sometimes punish sellers who raised prices more than 10 percent. During the Covid shutdowns last spring, even a nominal price increase on necessities could land a seller in hot water and result in their ASIN being shut down, their account receiving a warning, or worst of all their account being suspended. In April, we discussed enforcement issues such as gouging and warned sellers about linked accounts here. Once again, both seem to be on the rise.

What should sellers expect?

In coming days, weeks – and heaven forbid, months – there will be shortages. Of course, these shortages could make price gouging tempting for third-party Amazon sellers to buy in quantity when they can and sell for a huge profit.

Just don’t do it. Your account depends on it. Don’t be that seller.

Above all, if you have questions about keeping your account in good standing or getting reinstated? Give us a call at Riverbend 877-289-1017