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How Amazon raised prices to profit from the pandemic

 by Alex Harman

Part 12 - Amazon Should Institute Price and Product Listing Reforms
 
It can be exceedingly difficult to determine if a product on Amazon is priced fairly. From multiple product pages, to prices shifting as often as every 10 minutes, to size and variety combinations that make comparison shopping challenging. We recommend that Amazon make these reforms to provide pricing transparency for consumers:

Publish suggested retail price, average price, and a link to price history next to every item listed on Amazon.com.

Consumers would benefit from the ability to see if the listed price is comparable to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. An average price would show the consumer whether the current price is more or less than the typical price paid. The average price could be especially useful for products with significant price volatility. While several websites track Amazon prices, this data should be made available to Amazon customers directly as part of the shopping experience. If prices are moving upward, a consumer could see that trend by looking at price history and make an informed decision about whether or not they should make a purchase.

Limit upper end of the price range on all product listings.

A simple solution for so much of the problematic pricing would be to limit how much a price can increase from the time it is listed. This would keep price increases to a minimum and would stop price gouging on existing listings.

End the practice of creating new product pages for items previously listed.

When new product pages are created there is no previous price history attached to the page. This makes it difficult to evaluate prices. In some cases, it appears that new product pages have been created simply because of a new title or even a misspelling. Price history should be tied to a product not to an erroneous listing page.

List multi-pack items with individual item prices visible and require that multi-pack items reflect a quantity discount.

When items are packaged in large quantities it can be difficult to evaluate the price of the larger package. Where possible, a single unit price should be identified. This should be required for products listed available for individual sale in addition to, not in place of, a per ounce or other measurement of unit price.

Amazon policy should require that multiple quantity packages should always reflect a quantity discount. Quantity packaging communicates an expectation of discount to the consumer, and this should be true as a matter of policy. A quantity discount also should be clearly displayed on the listing page.

Separate data on price history and customer ratings by each item type on listings with multiple sizes or varieties.

When a product listing page contains multiple options including size, quantity, or variety, price tracking websites are unable to track the price of each option. The data for these types of listings should be broken out so that price histories can be maintained where different options result in different products and prices. In addition, customer reviews on these types of pages are unable to distinguish between the options selected. Thus, if a particular variety has more negative reviews than another, a consumer is unable to see the reviews and ratings on the specific product variety they have selected.

Create a single click option for consumers to report a product listing problem.

As with advertising and social media posts, consumers are used to reporting problematic content by clicking a “report” button. Amazon product listings that are erroneous, or that are suspected of price gouging or some other unfair pricing should be flagged for review by consumers. This would assist Amazon in identifying problem listings.


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