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With COVID infections on the rise, e-commerce platforms seek to swat down oxygen scalpers

Written by Khamila Mulia Published on     2 mins read

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Scalpers have raised prices of life-saving supplies like oxygen to up to 1,000% of normal levels to exploit a steep climb in COVID-19 infections in Indonesia.

Indonesia is struggling with a rising number of COVID-19 infections, with its seven-day average of new cases reaching an all-time high of 24,111 on July 4, well above the 5,750 mark from a month prior. Demand for oxygen cylinders and refills is soaring. Hospitals and medical suppliers in Jakarta have reported shortages in the past week, and patients are being turned away from medical facilities as they are all stretched beyond full capacity. Patients and their family members are seeking life-saving supplies on their own, with many turning to e-commerce platforms, where prices have surged to as much as 1,000% their normal levels.

Marketplace operators like Tokopedia and Shopee said they will take firm actions against profiteers who are attempting to profit off the health crisis—and potentially preventing oxygen from reaching those who need it the most. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, Tokopedia has consistently ensured that all Indonesians have equal access to health products,” said Ekhel Chandra Wijaya, the company’s senior lead for external communications.

Tokopedia will initiate investigations to remove listings or ban accounts if sellers breach the platform’s terms and conditions or applicable Indonesian laws, Wijaya added.

Yet searches performed by KrASIA on Monday show that there are still listings for oxygen cylinders that carry elevated prices on Tokopedia, Shopee, and Bukalapak. One merchant in North Jakarta was selling 1 L portable oxygen cylinders for IDR 2.9–5 million on Shopee, as much as ten times the normal price of IDR 500,000. At the time of publication, the oxygen carried by that merchant had sold out. A similar item was listed on Tokopedia for IDR 3.8 million.

Wijaya said customers can report sellers or products that are marked with unreasonable prices. “Although Tokopedia is user-generated content (UGC), where everyone can upload products independently, we continuously carry out cooperative actions to ensure every activity on the platform remains in accordance with applicable laws,” he said.

Tokopedia and Shopee recently released a press statement regarding the regulation of prices of 11 medicines that are widely used during the pandemic, in line with the new rules set by the Ministry of Health following complaints about the swelling prices of drugs and supplements sold online.

The number of COVID-19 cases has continued to rise in Indonesia in the past three weeks. To date, there have been over 2.28 million confirmed cases and 60,582 reported deaths. The country logged 27,913 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, which was a record-breaking run in daily additions.

Read this: Social media influencers prepare for the third wave of COVID-19 in India

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