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eBay bans sales of face masks, hand sanitizer amid coronavirus price gouging

The online retailer says it'll also remove listings that mention coronavirus or COVID-19.

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eBay is banning sales of some items associated with the coronavirus, including N95 face masks.

Erin Clark/Getty Images

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread in the US and other countries, demand for products like face masks and hand sanitizer has led to a spike in prices. To combat price gouging, online retailer eBay is banning some listings related to the coronavirus

In a notice to eBay sellers posted Thursday and spotted earlier by CNBC, eBay said it would block new listings and remove existing listings in the US for disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and face masks, including N95/N100 masks and surgical masks. The listings are being removed due to concerns that inflated prices for these products may violate US laws or regulations. eBay also said it will remove any listings, except for books, that mention COVID-19, coronavirus or 2019nCoV in the title or description.

It's unclear how long the ban will last. A spokeswoman for eBay said the company is monitoring the coronavirus situation. 

"As always, our first priority is to ensure the safety of our employees and customers around the world," said an eBay spokeswoman in an emailed statement Friday. "eBay is taking significant measures to block or quickly remove items on our marketplace that make false health claims." 

As of Tuesday, there have been 164 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the US and 11 deaths there, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Global cases have topped 100,000 with more than 3,000 deaths since the outbreak began in the Chinese province of Hubei in December 2019.

Fears over the coronavirus have led to stores selling out of items like hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and face masks, and online prices have skyrocketed. Two large bottles of Purell hand sanitizer, which normally cost about $9 a bottle, were selling on Amazon for $299, according to CBS News. 

Amazon has also taken steps to prevent price gouging, warning sellers that they could be booted from the site for charging too much for face masks and other items. Amazon says it's already removed more than 1 million listings for items claiming to cure or defend against the coronavirus.

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