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Amazon.com Inc. is trying to prevent price-gouging on its often-popular mask and contact lens alternatives by reportedly pressuring retailers to enforce new rules, including not imposing more than three times the price of the originals.
The e-commerce giant is also sending out letters telling retailers to only sell the companies’ version of the deodorant-like chemical masks in plastic or contact lenses and not allow for cuts or leaks. The San Francisco-based supplier, which makes products including Broadface, SCUBA DeepFashion, and Cabras Family, claims the changes are not connected to its recent popularity among price-conscious consumers. The company has launched at least three skincare lines and had just begun to ship masks to Amazon when it issued the letter to retailers last week.
The industry had watched as the do-it-yourself masks seized the nation’s zeitgeist in the run-up to Halloween as consumers got the chance to play guinea pig and experiment with mask styles and performance. According to data provided by analytics company Baobab, Amazon received more than 20,000 mask orders in October, more than double the number received in June. In the U.S., Babajob named Omni Columbia, Broadface, and Charbel a “favorite mask brand” last month, following a survey of thousands of users. The company has never officially advertised the products.
Masks have long provided a a large supply of high-priced products that people can try out for free, with a promise to return for more. Babajob discovered that social media—which presents a large pool of possible customers—has provided greater reach than the old-fashioned mail-order catalog in offering a broader selection of masks.
“We think it’s an interesting start for the FDA, and for Amazon,” said Babajob’s chief executive officer, David Brikman. “Price is something that the consumer can always access, and people seem to enjoy spending money on things they’re interested in.”
After a special Wall Street Journal feature last month featured the mask industry’s rise, search engine Google said it is starting to restrict mask searches in order to monitor fraud. Independent manufacturers distribute masks under their own brands, and many of the consumers buying them are people not relying on dermatologists. They find the masks on sites like Babajob, with price tags that start as low as $6. Among the different looks offered: Try to be as clown-like as possible with Cariculite Dragon Inhale Mask, or just go for a more decorative version with Anirons Masks Astro Waze Hydration.
Surveys by Babajob and Amazon say consumers like the idea of, for example, taking their experience with an Amazon Basics earbud with them to the club store. But many don’t realize the products can’t last long, and they can be more easily re-gifted than regular earbuds are. A spokesman for Amazon said that since Kababab pulled its brand of contact lenses from the e-commerce site earlier this month, the company has been receiving few complaints. The masks are on its list of prohibited products, and the company is monitoring reports of health complications.
Babajob says its products are not tainted and are safe.
“Nobody on the street has gotten sick from our mask,” said Lauren Schirmer, the company’s chief executive officer. “We use very, very high quality ingredients—it’s the same ingredients as a chemical deodorant.”