E-commerce tasked with mask control

E-commerce tasked with mask control

Efforts to curb price gouging amid panic

Leading e-commerce platforms such as Shopee, JD Central and Lazada are being asked to control overpriced face masks, a move aimed at dealing with the shortage.

A sign says masks and hand sanitiser are out of stock at a shop near Siriraj Hospital. Chanat Katanyu

Boonyarit Kalayanamit, the commerce permanent secretary, talked yesterday with representatives from the leading e-commerce platform providers, asking for their help in limiting price gouging for face masks.

"The sales prices should not exceed 2.50 baht per piece," said Mr Boonyarit. "Vendors who sell at excessive prices should be ready to explain themselves when they are caught."

He threatened to take legal action against vendors who sell overpriced face masks online through other channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Line.

Mr Boonyarit said if authorities find overpriced face masks sold via those platforms, they will first send notices to stop selling overpriced products. If the vendors ignore the notices, the authorities will obstruct the visibility or permanently block the access for those vendors.

"Whether the face masks are overpriced can be verified by comparing them with the standard prices of 2-2.50 baht per piece in the general market, such as department stores and shopping outlets," he said. "Any vendors who sell masks for over 2.50 baht need to explain the production costs and quality to justify the prices."

To ensure mask supplies, officials recently issued an order demanding domestic face mask producers supply masks to a centre set up by the government for public distribution at affordable prices through 120,000 Blue Flag shops.

On Tuesday last week, the cabinet also approved a proposal to put face masks and alcohol-based hand sanitiser on the state price control list to deal with the deadly virus outbreak.

Once an item is on the price control list, manufacturers, distributors, exporters and importers have to inform the Internal Trade Department of the production cost, sales price, production volume, export/import volume and inventory.

Those who export more than 500 pieces need to receive approval from the department.

Similar measures are applied to hand sanitiser, except for the limit on export volumes, as there are adequate quantities to meet domestic demand.

The price control list covers essential items for daily use, such as food, consumer goods, farm-related products, paper, petroleum and medicine.

There are 170 items on the state priority watch list, 52 of which are on the price control list.

The demand for face masks has surged to 40-50 million pieces a month after the virus outbreak, up from 30 million pieces a month previously, the amount Thailand typically produces.


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