It is time for students to drop Amazon and eBay under lockdown, and switch to Wholee Prime, writes Comment Central. 

University students across the country find themselves living under campus lockdowns and strict social distancing requirements. Lectures have been cancelled and tutorials moved online. Amidst the isolation, even the most basic of tasks, such as shopping for everyday items is made more difficult. The temptation for many is to switch to online shopping platforms, such as Amazon and eBay. But, beneath the veneer of customer convenience lies a starker reality of customer and staff exploitation.

Here are five compelling reasons students should abandon Amazon and eBay and switch to other retailers, such as the radical new shopping platform, Wholee Prime, that puts staff and customer welfare centre stage, offers a lowest price guarantee and embraces a clear and transparent zero mark-up pricing strategy where members only pay for the actual cost to make the product.

1. Price exploitation

Amidst the height of the pandemic, Amazon and eBay's business models have seen third-party sellers exploit desperate consumers looking for everyday essential items, such as hand sanitiser, toilet roll and essential cleaning products. Known as 'price gouging', the practice has seen sellers across both platforms advertise thousands of essential items at heavily inflated prices. In September, consumer campaign group Public Citizen ran a report that exposed price gouging of up to 1,000 per cent during the height of the pandemic.

Amazon itself was also caught price gouging on its own-brand products. In one instance a 50-pack of disposable face masks that would typically retail for $4 dollars rose by over 1000 per cent to almost $40. eBay has been seen adopting similar tactics.

2. Unsafe products

An increasing number of items sold via Amazon's third-party merchants are unsafe and have caused injury to consumers. The Wall Street Journal has found alarming evidence that Amazon has continued to show a disregard for its responsibility to have these unsafe products removed from its site.

Research conducted in February 2020 by consumer Which? revealed that two-thirds (66 per cent) of the 250 products it bought from marketplaces, such as eBay and Amazon, failed safety tests. In May, The Sun newspaper attacked both Amazon and eBay's customer safety standards after hair straighteners sold on their sites burned and scalded the skin.

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3. Offensive products

Amazon and eBay have also been criticised by sources, including The Independent, for their unwillingness to address offensive products that are continually sold on their sites. More recently Portsmouth News found that Amazon had been selling T-shirts that promoted Down Syndrome hate speech, continually failing to address the issue despite vast demand, including a 60,000 signature petition.

4. Price Transparency

A report conducted by The Washington Post found that for every dollar shoppers spend on products from third-party sellers via Amazon, the site takes around 35 per cent in commission. It's unsurprising that third-party merchants then inflate their prices to cover the mark-up cost as a result of Amazon's required revenue share.

eBay's adopted similar practices. The Sun recently reported that sellers are charged 10 per cent of the price of the product should it sell, while consumers pay a 3.5 per cent processing fee. This has sparked criticism and concern with retail giants putting their interests before the needs of consumers.

5. Spying

Just last week Amazon was rocked by allegations that the online retailer is monitoring the activities of trade union activists and politicians in response to deleted job postings that described trade unions as "threats".

Trade unions have called for a European Commission investigation into whether Amazon's monitoring of workers was legal after two job posts on the company's website advertised for "intelligence analyst" roles that referred to the monitoring of "labor organising threats against the company". The advertisements, aimed at candidates with law enforcement or military experience, also mentioned the monitoring of "hostile political leaders". Members of the European Parliament have subsequently written to Amazon investigating the job posts as well as the retailer's approach toward trade unions and critical politicians.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has transformed our everyday life, but we must be careful not to jeopardise our moral standards for the sake of everyday convenience. Students must send a clear message to Amazon and eBay that their tactics will no longer be tolerated.

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