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EU steps up pressure on online sellers over coronavirus scams

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By Ana Lazaro, Jack Parrock
Social Europe - The European Pillar of Social Rights
Social Europe - The European Pillar of Social Rights   -   Copyright  John Charlton/John Charlton Photography 2016

Confinement measures are greatly increasing the number of online sales.

Fear surrounding the COVID-19 virus its driving people to buy medical devices such as masks and disinfecting gels.

But there are many cases of fake or faulty products making their way to market.

Consumer protection organizations are launching platforms for complaints directly related to the coronavirus.

"Since the beginning of the crisis, some operators have taken advantage of the anxiety generated by the COVID-19 to sell products of poor quality often, with advertised effects that are never verified, and above all, at prohibitive prices than in some cases can be named as scam," Jean-Philippe Ducart, from Test Achat Belgium tells us.

Some online operators are taking advantage of fear as seen the price of the masks which are now 7 times more expensive.

Since most websites work beyond the national level and products are circulating around the EU, European institutions are putting pressure on digital platforms to remove fake or misleading adverts.

"Online shopping platforms and media hosts have been contacted by the Commission and are voluntarily implementing systems to stop fraud. In fact, they have an obligation to do so and they have been very pro-active I must say. In one case they were reporting more of a million of this kind of things that they are taking down a day,' explains Anne-Michelle Asimakopoulou (MEP, Greece).

It's not just online, the prices of basic goods are also increasing.

In Belgian supermarkets for instance, shoppers are seeing an average increase on goods of up to 6%. For some products in high demand, like toilet paper, it has risen by 30%.