E-commerce firms fall behind vendors taking advantage of COVID-19

February 25, 2020 | 11:46
E-commerce firms are having difficulties in keeping tabs on vendors flogging unauthenticated or downright fake goods to profiteer on the sky-high demand for face masks and hand sanitiser due to the coronavirus epidemic.
e commerce firms fall behind vendors taking advantage of covid 19
Thousands of face masks and hand-sanitiser gels are on trade on Sendo and Shopee

The health crisis is a great opportunity for traders of healthcare items like medical face masks and hand-sanitiser gels, with sales going through the roof and vendors taking sales to e-commerce platforms in growing numbers.

As of February 24, about 465,000 vendors have been selling 1.7 million related products on e-commerce platforms like Sendo, Shopee, Lazada, Tiki, Fado, Bibomart, and Concung, according to Vietnam e-Commerce and Digital Economy Agency (iDEA) under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The skyrocketing demand for these goods has also made supervision of fake and low-quality goods a daunting task to say the least, with a tremendous number of goods of dubious quality being on sale at sky-high prices.

"This is a very dangerous practice on many levels. On one hand, dishonest vendors take advantage of the rising general price level to make a tidy profit, but they are also taking advantage of the customer psychology that ties higher prices to high quality. This will go at the expense of customer trust in e-commerce at large," a market analyst told VIR.

With the coronavirus epidemic hitting Vietnam a few weeks ago, a package of 100 Japanese medical face masks was offered for VND2.7 million ($117.39) on Shopee, as much as 10 times the market price from before the epidemic. As soon as receiving complaints from customers about the unusual pricing, the e-commerce firm removed it from the search results.

Besides, thousands of unauthenticated healthcare goods have been traded on e-commerce platforms recently. The iDEA reported that about 5,200 vendors with more than 21,000 of fake and unauthenticated goods were discovered and handled on the two e-commerce platforms.

Sendo has topped the list of violations with more than 2,000 vendors and 3,000 medical face mask products. Just for hand-sanitiser gel products, the platform had about 1,000 merchants and 1,500 items in violation of its policies. Shopee ranked second, with 3,000 vendors and 3,500 face masks. Of these, 400 vendors and 500 products have been sanctioned.

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In a talk with VIR last week, a Sendo representative said, “We have been seeking more prestigious suppliers to meet the demand for face masks and other related products.”

Echoing this, Shopee’s representative also said that the firm has been keeping a close eye on the performance of vendors selling these items and “will block the accounts of vendors found in violation.”

Indeed, these are not the first time the platforms getting stuck with the unqualified good issue. Last June, local book manufacturer First News Co., Ltd. announced that Shopee, Lazada, and Sendo are abetting the consumption of fake and pirated books violating the law. The company said that an uncountable number of fake books were displayed for sale online.

By Van Anh

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