Profiteering on disinfectants and masks finds fertile ground


Face masks and antiseptic liquids and gels, mainly those sold by pharmacies and online stores, are at the focus of complaints about profiteering. The phenomenon of excessive prices observed in recent days not only concerns surgical masks but also welding masks, as even these have been selling like hot cakes.

According to data from ecommerce platform Skroutz, 16 of the top 25 products in sales volume in the six weeks from February 1 to March 12 were various types of masks. During that period, stores cooperating with Skroutz sold at least 68,723 masks of all sizes. Data showed that the price of a professional mask that cost 2 euros at the start of the year had risen to 7 euros.

The same applies to antiseptic gel, which started the year at 1 euro per tube and has now reached 5 euros. Sources say Skroutz has actually decided to stop cooperating with some online stores that were clearly engaging in price gouging.

Giorgos Bournas, chief executive at Bournas Medicals – SOFT, which produces and imports healthcare materials, says: “The Chinese were selling masks at 2 cents each before the coronavirus outbreak, and have now raised their prices to 30-50 cents. Therefore the price of a 50-mask box has climbed to $15-25 against just $1 before the outbreak. Yet regardless of this hike, we don’t even have the chance to import these products due to their confiscation by Chinese customs officers so as to cover the needs in their country’s hospitals.”

Charges for disinfections in Greece have grown up to 10 times in recent weeks. They may well rise further if demand keeps growing at the current rate. The sector’s association president, Vlassis Bisbikis, says the situation will be aggravated as the resources for disinfections are running out: “In the next 15-20 days we will have a problem,” he argues.