In the present context where the coronavirus pandemic has spread fear upon consumers due to uncertainty regarding its evolution therefore raising doubt about the possibility of fulfilling basic consumers’ needs, many “uncoordinated economic impulses” have been registered particularly because of the growth of consumer’s demand on specific goods.
Taking advantage not only of a grown demand but also of the anxiety arisen from certain doubt, sellers might resort to illegal or anti-competitive practices that lead to excessive buying or excessive price growth. Raising awareness on the different breaches of consumers’ rights is of utmost importance to prevent such unfair actions in the future.
Pressure selling techniques are more often used by traders; hence consumers are not given adequate time to reflect and compare similar offers, also little information is provided about charges and rights. In order to avoid falling into such scams, one should give more attention when certain “benefits” are offered, such as:
- Claims that the product is an “one time” offer – imposing a time limit on a deal that pressures consumers to immediately buy certain goods for fear of missing out. Such claims are mainly encountered when selling medical products such as masks, caps, drugs or hand sanitizer;
- Claims or benefits especially related to the possibility to prevent or cure the COVID-19 virus – which are based on statistics or results from studies that might be fake, and that lead to higher prices due to possible healing powers of such products;
- Testimonials and reviews – from unofficial sources such as self-declared doctors that lead to misinformation of consumers;
- Linked sells – that force consumers to buy an entire package of goods in order to obtain the needed product, thus buying more than intended.
Providing inaccurate information about market conditions or the possibility to find a specific product due to lack of production in order to charge higher than normal prices might be another common illegal practice during these times.
Moreover, the usage of claims suggesting that certain products prevent or cause a COVID-19 infection without a scientific evidence or claims that are not fully aligned with official expert advice on how COVID-19 infections should be tackled, push consumers into buying and must also be prevented.
To tackle the issue of possible consumers’ rights violation, one must always look at reliable sources for information about products, especially regarding those related to coronavirus cures, such as national governments, health authorities or international organizations. Moreover, unsupported or misleading claims on an online platform should be treated with high importance by encouraging consumers to report such online sellers to platform operators whenever possible.