Retailers react to online price gouging, panic buying

Online marketplace Trade Me announced it is enacting a natural disaster and civil emergency policy on Wednesday, which aims to discourage opportunistic price-gouging during times of civil unrest. 

“We are introducing these new measures to protect our users from exploitative pricing during the COVID-19 outbreak and future unforeseen events,” Trade Me’s head of trust and safety George Hiotakis said. 

“Items such as face masks and hand sanitiser that have been listed for much more than their normal retail price will be removed and sellers will be asked to list these items at prices consistent with their standard price.”

Hiotakis said that while Trade Me had never been involved in setting prices on the marketplace before, but that the current climate had led the team to make a change. 

The change, however, isn’t likely to happen overnight. At any one time Trade Me lists over 8 million items, and Hiotakis admits it will be tricky to execute. 

“We think this option is better than banning these items altogether and Kiwis not being able to buy them at all,” Hiotakis said. 

“Our teams are working hard to review any items currently onsite and are hoping to have this completed in the next few days.”

Trade Me isn’t the only New Zealand business under pressure due to the changing retail landscape.

After being inundated with panic shoppers, Countdown is urging Kiwi’s to buy only what goods they need in order to ensure everyone has access to the food and products they require. 

The business said in a statement on its website that they are continuing to manage the increased customer demand seen across the supermarket sector, but they need customers to “be thoughtful” toward one another. 


Admitting that the situation was ever changing, Countdown said the main message it wanted to convey was that there is no need to panic about food and groceries. 

“We’re taking the evolving situation with COVID-19 very seriously and are monitoring it very closely. Our stores and online services are very busy, but our teams are managing this demand as best we can,” Countdowns general manager of health and safety Kiri Hannifin told Inside Retail.

“The most important message we are giving New Zealanders is that there is plenty of food to go around, and there’s no need to stockpile. 

“We’d encourage our customers to shop as they normally would and be thoughtful to others.”

Countdown is currently limiting purchases of Panadol, paracetamol, hand sanitisers and Dettol products to help manage demand levels. 

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