E-comm firms struggle to curb price gouging, shortage of hand sanitizers amid coronavirus fears

Coronavirus affected people continue to rise across the globe. As the toll reaches 42 in India, hand sanitizers have gone missing from the shelves of major e-retailer platforms in the country.

While Grofers, Big Basket and Prime, which is Amazon’s grocery delivery service, have completely run out of hand sanitizer stocks, Amazon India’s e-retail website and Flipkart have a severe shortage of frontline hand sanitizer brands such as Dettol, Lifebuoy, Himalaya. Instead what you do find on these e-commerce sites are sanitizers from unpopular companies that a lot of users might not have heard about.

What’s adding to this apparent hand sanitizer shortage is the price surge. In many cases, retailers are selling hand sanitizers at a price that is thrice the market price of the item. Buyers have even taken to Twitter to share their concern. Some even shared screenshots of the overpriced goods on the platform. Here’s what they had to say:

A 30ml bottle of @HimalayaIndia hand sanitizer usually available for less than Rs 50 is being sold on @Flipkart for Rs 999 or $13. Buyers on the platform black marketing while @Flipkart turns a blind eye. @jagograhakjago @PiyushGoyal @PiyushGoyalOffc

Companies are actually Working hard to help people by selling a 30 ml Hand Sanitizer for only ₹999 and mind that that’s with a discount of ₹1. Please do something @Flipkart for those who are selling products over the MRP price. @flipkartsupport #CaronavirusIndia

hand sanitizer bottles which should not cost more than ₹ 100/- Are now openly & shamelessly sold for ₹ 600/- by pharmacies across New Delhi and Gurgaon; please take some action 🙏#coronavirusindia #Coronavid19

Himalaya Drug Company, which is one of the prominent makers of hand sanitizers in the country has issued a statement on its official social media page clarifying that it has not increased the prices of the good in the country. “This is to clarify that we have not increased the rates of our PureHands Hand Sanitizers. The rates of our hand sanitizers have been illegally increased by unauthorised third-party sellers,” Himalaya India wrote in a statement.

As far as the shortage is concerned, Hindustan Unilever, which markets Lifebuoy products, in a statement to The Economic Times has confirmed that while certain areas in the country may witness shortage due to increased demand, however the company has enough stock to meet the demands. Reckitt Benckiser, which markets Dettol hand sanitizers, and Himalaya drug company have said that they are expanding production to meet the demand.

Despite an adequate stock, hand sanitizers from these frontline brands continue to remain missing from the shelves of these e-retail platforms. We have reached out to some of the e-retailers to determine how they are coping with the shortage of hand sanitizers on their platforms.

While Big Basket has refused to comment, Amazon, Flipkart and Grofers are yet to comment on the matter. We will update this story as soon as we hear from them.

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