Thailand files complaint against Lazada for over-priced masks

A couple travel in the skytrain wearing protective masks due to the coronavirus outbreak in Bangkok, Thailand March 9, 2020. Picture taken March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s Commerce Ministry on Wednesday filed a complaint against the Alibaba backed e-commerce platform Lazada after investigations found that surgical masks were being sold at excessively high prices, a senior official said.

The country, which has 59 confirmed coronavirus cases, last month classified surgical masks and hand sanitiser as controlled goods, allowing it to set price ceilings and better control distribution.

“The Commerce Ministry will take legal action against Lazada in three cases,” Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit told reporters at a news conference.

Three online shops that operate on the platform were found to be selling surgical masks at prices that were excessively high and above the control price of 2.5 baht per mask, Jurin said.

The three shops sold masks at an average price of between 22 baht to 26 baht, he said, adding that the owners could face up to seven years of prison time and a fine of up to 140,000 baht ($4,460.02).

Ministry officials have filed a complaint against the first vendor with the police and plan to file complaints about the two others.

They have also notified the chief executive of Lazada in Thailand who, as an intermediary, is punishable under the same laws, the minister said, adding that the government had previously warned e-commerce marketplaces to be careful in policing illegal activity on their platforms.

Lazada said: “We have been supporting measures by the Department of Internal Trade to maintain reasonable pricing for essential items, including face masks. We are aware of the Minister of Commerce’s comments and are currently conducting an internal investigation.”

“We are actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation and new regulations, to educate the sellers on our platform. If any seller persists in inflating the prices of masks, Lazada will remove the listing,” the statement said.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Jane Merriman)

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