|Masks are sold out and only product samples are on the shelves of a supermarket in Seoul, Tuesday, due to a huge increase in demand after the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. / Yonhap|
By Jung Hae-myoung
As fears over the Wuhan coronavirus are rising here, more people are trying to prevent infection through the use of various disinfectants and masks. With the drastic rise in demand, masks are even out of stock in some shops and markets.
However, some sellers are raising prices using the fears of customers. On internet communities and social media, people expressed anger over the surge in prices also seen in masks sold on online open markets.
"I bought a KF94 mask for 17,000 won, but just a day later when I logged into the market, the price had rocketed to 63,000 won, three times more than the original price," one customer wrote. "I understand that prices are rising because of the demand increase, but this is manipulating people's fear and life for sales."
The Korea Consumer Agency said it received around 40 complaints regarding the high price of masks and cancellation of product deliveries throughout Tuesday and Wednesday. The official said these kind of complaints had not been received before.
Although many people understand that prices may rise if demand increases, many say it is unreasonable that sellers are making profits out of people's anxiety.
One seller on an online market sold masks for 3,460 won each up from 600 won before; another seller on Auction also sold a 100-masks pack for 87,900won which was originally sold for 44,900 won.
Some complaints said the sellers were cancelling orders on purpose in order to make customers buy the products at a higher price.
A 44 year-old customer surnamed Shin ordered KF94 masks in bulk Sunday. She bought 120 masks in a box for 20,000 won, but after two days she received a text message saying her order was cancelled due to the masks being out of stock. When she went back to the website, the product was being sold for 60,000 won.
Open markets were no better. "The price are adjusted by the sellers on the market, so it is hard for us to figure out the change in price," one market official said.
E-commerce market WeMakePrice said they were advising sellers to stabilize prices.
"The price changes several times a day according to the economic situation. Rather than imposing penalties, our operation division is giving notice to companies that are selling on our platform to consider price stabilization," a WeMakePrice official said.
Coupang said it was monitoring sellers that unreasonably raised prices.
"We will not tolerate sellers that hoard emergency products and resell them at a higher price. We are keeping an eye on sellers that are making excessive profits and warning them to set usual prices," the official said.
"We will stop sellers that do not make any changes. If consumers report those selling at unusual prices we will take prompt action."