Online platforms ordered to monitor mask prices

Ding Yining Hu Min
Online discounter Pinduoduo has promised to report sudden price increases to market authorities. Face masks have become rare commodities in the wake of a recent virus outbreak.
Ding Yining Hu Min

The Changning District Administration for Market Regulation has ordered Shanghai-based online discounter Pinduoduo to ensure stable pricing of health products such as medical-style face masks. Such products have become increasingly scarce in the wake of a recent coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province.

The e-commerce platform was ordered to inform its businesses not to stockpile products or gouge customers, and conduct monitoring on the prices of these products, the administration said on Tuesday. 

It was ordered to report abrupt and significant price increases, as well as fake promotions, to the administration.

Pinduoduo said it will take measures to prevent price surges on relevant products, the administration said. 

On Alibaba's online retail platform Taobao, "anti-virus masks" are currently the most searched-for products, with more than 3.1 million queries. 

Alibaba's Tmall online supermarket division is working to increase stocks, although some buyers in select areas may see masks listed as temporarily out of stock. 

Some Taobao vendors, however, said they have stopped delivery for the Chinese New Year holiday. Delivery would gradually resume on February 3, said one Shanghai vendor.

The e-commerce giant's on-demand delivery platform Ele.me said they have also ordered merchants to keep masks price at normal levels and it's also actively screening online prices.

It called for online merchants to maintain stable prices and supplies for protective supplies to ensure public well-being.

JD has partnered with major mask producers like Honeywell and 3M and their supply would go into JD's warehouse from the factory directly to ensure fastest delivery for customers. It has also worked with multiple suppliers to replenish stockpile.

Honeywell said late Monday that it's increasing facial mask production capacity and working with all parties to meet market demand. 

Medical-style masks have sold out at many pharmacies and supermarkets in Shanghai as well.

The Shanghai Administration for Market Regulation also said on Tuesday that officials are monitoring prices closely.

Shanghai has reported nine coronavirus-related pneumonia cases so far, with 10 suspected cases.

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