Tokopedia shuts thousands of online merchants for inflating prices of protective clothing

Indonesian eCommerce company Tokopedia has shut down about thousands of online merchants on its platform for selling personal protective equipment at exorbitant rates amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an article on Jakarta Globe, the eCommerce giant said it has also banned the display of over 10,000 products that breach Tokopedia's terms and policies. 

Since the spread of COVID-19 in Indonesia, Tokopedia has seen an increase in purchases related to health products and basic supplies. These include masks, antiseptic items and hand sanitisers as well as healthy food, Jakarta Globe reported.. The eCommerce giant also said in the article that it has been supporting the Indonesian government by offering free shipping for products in the health and basic essentials categories. In addition, Tokopedia staff have also been asked to work from home as the cases in Indonesia grow. There were over a 1,000 reported COVID-19 cases in Indonesia at the time of writing, according to the World Health Organisation.

Marketing Interactive has reached out to Tokopedia for additional information.

The sale of masks has been a sensitive topic in this period of time and the act of profiteering among online sellers has been making headlines lately. Recently, many eCommerce platforms have been flagged for its high-price masks listed on its platforms. Earlier in March, Lazada Thailand received a complaint from the Thailand's Ministry of Commerce. At the time of writing, search results on Lazada Thailand showed surgical masks priced at 93 baht and 1,247 baht each are still found on the platform, according to a quick check by Marketing Interactive. The listings have since been removed. 

Back in January, eCommerce platform Carousell also had listings for high-priced masks. According to multiple media reports then, surgical and N95 masks were resold on Carousell for as high as SG$288 for a box of 20. Those listings have been removed, and the current listings on Carousell are selling masks at a relatively reasonable price, from SG$0.40 to SG$4 per piece.

Most recently, SM Entertainment, the South Korean entertainment agency which manages K-pop groups such as EXO, NCT, Super Junior, and SHINee, copped flak for an ad for its online store that sells KN95 masks. On its Twitter account "SMGlobalShop", the agency reportedly sold masks for US$30 for a pack of five, according to The Malay MailSince its upload, netizens replied with negative comments saying the ad is "done in poor taste", and that the agency is "profiting off a pandemic". There were also comments asking SM Entertainment to donate the masks to hospitals and healthcare workers instead. A quick check by Marketing Interactive showed that the link to the shop has since been deactivated, and the listing have since been removed.