Friday, June 9, 2023

Online Marketplaces Crack Down on Merchants Profiteering From Covid-19 Spike

Jakarta Globe
July 7, 2021 | 4:24 pm
This undated file photo shows Tokopedia's employees working at the Indonesian online marketplace company's headquarters in Jakarta. (Photo courtesy of Tokopedia)
This undated file photo shows Tokopedia's employees working at the Indonesian online marketplace company's headquarters in Jakarta. (Photo courtesy of Tokopedia)

Jakarta. Indonesia's major online marketplace companies, including Shopee and Tokopedia, have cracked down on sellers on their platform, which set prices of drugs and vitamins to treat the Covid-19 patients above the ceiling prices set by the government, profiteering from the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the country.   

Shopee has removed over 500 products that do not comply with government regulations from their online listings due to this effort. In addition, Shopee has also limited the category of drugs that can be sold without a doctor's prescription. 

“We hope that selling parties will help accelerate the recovery of our public health by following the regulations and prices set by the government," Radityo Triatmojo, the head of public policy at Shopee Indonesia, said on Tuesday.  

"Shopee will support government efforts and policies to overcome the pandemic. This is our shared responsibility,"  Radityo said. 


Earlier, Tokopedia CEO William Tanuwijaya said that Tokopedia has established a price control policy and acted against sellers who set product prices above what is fair. Tokopedia has indeed closed stores and banned products that have been proven to have violated regulations since last year.

In response to the illegal activity, Tokopedia and Shopee’s internal teams closely monitored health products and medical equipment related to Covid-19 to ensure that they comply with existing government regulations. 

On top of internal monitoring, both applications also have features that allow users to report products or shops that violate the rules. By reporting unlawful activity, the public can play an active role in keeping the online marketplace a safer and more responsible ecosystem, especially during this pandemic. 

Taking advantage of the demand increase in the medicines following the recent Covid-19 cases surge, many online marketplace sellers have inflated their health product prices beyond the legal price cap. 

Online marketplaces are especially vulnerable to illegal price setting, as they rely on user-generated content. This allows sellers to directly and independently upload their products onto the platforms.

The Ministry of Health issued a decree last Friday capping prices of eleven drugs used to treat Covid-19, including Favipiravir, Remdesivir, and Oseltamivir. The decree aimed to ensure “that people can buy medicine at affordable prices,” Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin said at the time.

“Those who violate the decree will be dealt with firmly,” Budi said. 

Ahmad Sahroni, the deputy chairman of the House of Representatives Commission III, which oversees law, human rights, and security, urges the authorities and the marketplace companies to crack down on sellers that increase the price of goods needed for treatment, not only medicines. 

“This is severe. I’ve tracked several items, such as the oximeter, where the price is usually under Rp 100,000 [$6.9]. Now it’s gone up to Rp 200,000, even Rp 300,000," Ahmad said. 

He was referring to a device used to measure oxygen saturation in the bloodstream. Oxygen saturation dropping below 96 percent is one of the most telling Covid-19 symptoms, indicating ones' lung may have deteriorated and unable to supply enough oxygen to the body. 

“The police must coordinate with e-commerce services… they are responsible for maintaining fair prices. There should be a unit that oversees these illegal sellers. If you have set an unreasonable price, close down the shop," Ahmad, who also a Nasdem Party politician, said. 

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