eBay bans predatory coronavirus listings amid price gouging and bogus claims

Following the US Surgeon General's recommendation that the general public stop buying face masks with the goal of preventing the spread of coronavirus, eBay has announced that it will halt sales of masks and a couple of other items that are associated with the outbreak. The move seems to be an effort to prevent price gouging from sellers who are trying to take advantage of the fear surrounding COVID-19.

In a post to its community site today, eBay announced that it will block new listings for "masks including N95/N100 and surgical masks"; hand sanitizer and gel; and disinfecting wipes. Existing listings will be taken down, and eBay will also begin removing listings that reference COVID-19, coronavirus, or 2019nCoV either in the description or in the title, with the sole exception being books.

"These listings may violate applicable US laws or regulations, eBay policies, and exhibit unfair pricing behavior for our buyers," eBay said in that post, noting that it will continue posting updates on its community site. CNBC says that before this ban, price gouging was an issue on eBay, with one seller offering a five pack of 2.5-ounce Germ-X hand sanitizer bottles for a whopping $500.

Beyond preventing price gouging, eBay is also looking to take down listings which make unsubstantiated medical claims. On Monday, the US Surgeon General advised people to stop buying face masks as they won't prevent the spread of coronavirus among the general public. With that in mind, the public buying up face masks may only serve to create shortages for medical professionals who actually need them.

So, between price gouging and bogus medical claims, it's probably a good thing that eBay is suspending the sale of these items for now. We'll see if eBay decides to add more items to its ban list, so stay tuned for more.