As the government attempts to crack down on overpriced face masks at stores and e-commerce websites, Facebook’s marketplace has become a hotbed of mask price gouging, with some sold for five times the government-enforced limit.
Facebook says it has temporarily banned advertisements and commercial listings of medical face masks and other medical products such as hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes on its site.
But the top picks and health and beauty sections of Facebook’s Marketplace, an open customer-to-customer selling platform, are almost exclusively populated by such products.
A 50-pack of standard surgical masks on Facebook’s marketplace is being sold in Bangkok for 600-700 baht or 12-14 baht per mask.
The Commerce Ministry has instituted price controls of 2.50 baht per mask and warned that price gougers could face a jail term of five years and/or a fine of 100,000 baht. Just this week seven vendors in Thailand were arrested and face jail time for overcharging for masks.
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Lazada recently received a complaint from the Commerce Ministry that vendors were selling masks at illegally high prices on its platform and has since removed all masks from the Lazada Thailand website.
“Facebook is temporarily banning ads and commercial listings, like those on Marketplace, that sell medical face masks,” a Facebook representative said. “Our teams are monitoring the [coronavirus pandemic] closely and will make necessary updates to our policies if we see people trying to exploit this public health emergency for their own benefit.”
Facebook is also banning ads for medical products such as hand sanitiser that allude to a limited supply or make claims about curing or preventing the disease.
The social media giant, which has over 46 million registered users in Thailand, is encouraging users to report any listing or ads that violate the platform’s commerce policy.
“In addition to masks, we’re also banning hand sanitiser, surface disinfectant wipes and [coronavirus] test kits in ads and commercial listings,” the representative said. “This is another step to help protect against inflated prices and predatory behaviour we’re seeing. We’ll be ramping up our automated enforcement for ads and commerce next week. If we see abuse around these products in organic posts, we’ll remove those, too.”
With Facebook and Line’s massive penetration in Thailand, the social commerce market has become ubiquitous in recent years.
According to a study by Boston Consulting Group, 40% of Thais reported that they have used social commerce platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Line, the highest percentage in the world.