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Prices of Covid devices shoot up despite cap, Health News, ET HealthWorld

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Prices of Covid devices shoot up despite capPrices of oxygen concentrators, oximeters and nebulisers have surged 50-100% over the past ten days, with a huge demand-supply mismatch amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Ecommerce giant Amazon said it has started removing listings of accounts selling these products above MRP, even as the organised medical devices industry, legal entities and consumers called for enforcing pricing control over these products.

Prices of oxygen concentrators, which generate oxygen from air, have almost doubled, while those of oximeters have shot up by Rs 1,000-2,000 over the past seven days alone. Prices have shot up across both offline stores and e-commerce platforms including Amazon and Flipkart. The government had last year put a cap on the prices of these products, but it is not being followed by some sellers, companies and importers.

An Amazon India spokesperson said the company is taking immediate steps to halt the surge pricing.

“We are disappointed that some sellers are attempting to raise prices beyond the MRP on certain products amid the pandemic. There is no place for price gouging on Amazon and in line with our policy, we continue to actively monitor our marketplace and take necessary action including removal of listings and suspension of accounts against sellers who are selling products above the MRP, which is in violation of Indian laws,” the spokesperson said.

An email seeking comment to Flipkart remained unanswered at press time on Tuesday. Hundreds of tweets by consumers have gone viral, that they had to shell out more than Rs 1 lakh to buy oxygen concentrators, which would usually be available for Rs 45,000. Monthly rentals for the device, too, have shot up from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000-20,000.

“A lot of traders and importers, even on online marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart, have increased prices of Covid-essential medical products by two-four times in just a week. The problem is more with imported products by opportunistic traders who import these products at low prices and then keep on increasing prices to take advantage of the situation and blame it on their suppliers,” said Rajiv Nath, forum co-ordinator of the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry.

Oxygen concentrator seller BPL Medical chief executive Sunil Kurana said the company has reached out to its distributors and dealers and asked them not to sell beyond a certain price and maintain the margin at a reasonable level since several players are selling the products at exorbitant prices.

Legal experts said existing guidelines must be enforced immediately. “This is an enforcement issue right at the ground level. The cap on pricing applies for all drugs including medicines and equipment and must be adhered to by manufacturers or importers. However, what we are witnessing is unscrupulous behaviour from stockists or sellers,” said Varun Kalsi, partner at legal firm Priti Suri & Associates.

The industry has been pushing the government to put a price cap on these products, at a maximum of three-four times the import landed price. The concentrator market is import-dominated and a scarcity of material has further aggravated the situation.


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