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Amazon has barred a million products for making false coronavirus claims

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While removing tens of thousands for price gouging

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon has blocked over a million products from being sold after they made misleading claims about being able to cure or prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Reuters reports. The retailer also says it has removed tens of thousands of deals due to price gouging, as sellers charge much higher prices for items like face masks as concerns about the virus spread.

The reports of items being removed come less than a week after Amazon issued a warning to sellers on its platform to not hike the price of face masks, which are in high demand amid the outbreak. The e-commerce platform’s Fair Pricing Policy forbids price increases that “harm customer trust,” and it says that prices should not be “significantly higher than recent prices offered on or off Amazon.”

“There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” a spokesperson for the company told Reuters.

Reuters notes that some face masks and respirators being sold on Amazon have been tripling or even quadrupling in price. One (since-removed) 10-pack of N95 face masks had increased in price to $128 from an average price of $41.24, while two-packs of respirators went from an average price of $6.65 to $24.99 in one instance.

However, there still appear to be products listed on the site that are being sold at much higher prices than normal. At the time of publication, this pack of 100 face masks is being sold by a third-party seller for $56.99, while CamelCamelCamel indicates that the product retailed for under $10 at the beginning of the month.

Amazon isn’t the only tech platform that’s having to deal with companies attempting to profit off of the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier this week, Facebook confirmed that it is cracking down on ads that make misleading claims about the novel coronavirus or otherwise try to “create a sense of urgency” by implying that products like face masks are in limited supply. Facebook confirmed that these policies also apply to its Marketplace platform where its users can buy and sell items.

In some cases, sellers may not just be violating Amazon’s policies. Most US states have laws against merchants price gouging products like water and medical supplies during emergencies.