Ministry probes retailer, online platforms selling pricey masks
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) will be sending letters of demand to retailers and e-commerce sites who have been selling masks at high prices.
In a statement yesterday, retailer Deen Express, located at 313@somerset mall, and e-commerce platforms Lazada, Qoo10 and Carousell will be issued letters by The Price Controller.
They will be required to provide information on the basis of the cost price of the respective masks, the subsequent sale price set and the reason for that price.
The e-commerce platforms will also be asked to provide information on any potential profiteers on their platforms.
On Wednesday, online marketplace Qoo10 removed a listing that advertised 30 "anti-coronavirus" masks for sale at $10,000.
A packet of 10 surgical masks usually costs around $5, though the price can vary a lot, while N95 masks cost about $40.
Ms Su Lin Tan, vice-president of operations at Carousell, told The New Paper yesterday: "Listings of face masks with unreasonable pricing will be asked to observe corrective action or may be taken down."
Ms Tan said Carousell is an open marketplace that does not regulate prices for buying and selling.
Nevertheless, she said: "In light of the escalating public health situation, we are stepping in to do our part to manage the situation by making sure that buyers who need masks can gain access to them fairly."
She also said Carousell has reached out directly to its sellers and are advising them to price their masks reasonably to allow for fair distribution.
It is also working closely with the relevant regulatory and enforcement agencies to review listings if needed.
Mr Sam Too, general manager at Qoo10, said the company has been closely tracking the sales activity of virus-related products, particularly face masks.
"We have communicated that all merchants should offer their products at prices reasonable to prevailing market conditions."
The companies will have to respond to the Price Controller's queries by Monday. Those who fail to comply with the request can be fined up to $10,000 for the first offence.
"Profiteering is highly irresponsible and damaging in these uncertain times. We urge all retailers to practise corporate social responsibility and not take advantage of the increased demand to raise prices unreasonably," said the MTI in a statement.