Should We Hold Online Businesses Accountable For Exploiting A Surge in Business As Brought By The COVID-19 Pandemic? (A Short Reflection)

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in many parts of the world, E-commerce, as it rises in popularity almost as quickly as the spread of COVID itself, has become a subject of major controversy. Do online businesses have the right to raise the prices of their goods as they experience unprecedented levels of demand, or should they account for the suffering that the world is experiencing and stagnate prices?

In my opinion, if I had to describe the power dynamic between online businesses such as Amazon®, the People, and the Government as of this moment in time, I would say that online businesses undoubtedly hold power over us all. As COVID-19 (the critical circumstance that has unjustly shifted the power dynamic) surges, people are forced to resort to cybershopping, given that it greatly reduces the risk of contracting the virus that you would otherwise have a high risk of contracting if you shopped at physical retail stores.

Over the last century, Amazon has hurtled their way to the top of the E-commerce food chain by effectively presenting itself to the public as a convenient, quick, relatively cheap way to source all the various necessary goods one might need to buy over the course of their life. Need food? Baby products? Electronic apparatuses? Clothing? Jewelry? Books? The latest sport shoe? Amazon has you covered. In the circumstances we find ourselves in presently, people are being forced to rely on this online alternative to physical shopping; thus, all power is held by Amazon. And we should be worried.

You don’t have to be a renowned economist to notice the incredible changes in shopping trends and the surprising shifts in consumer mentalities. I’m sure we can all recall clearly the frenzy and hoarding that occurred during the incipient stages of the pandemic for protective items like face-masks, disinfectants, and hand-sanitizers. Heck, people were even stacking up on toilet paper! Desperate to cling on to normal life during these abnormal times, we have begun to adopt an almost prepper-esque mentality: needless to say, Survivalism and Individualism are on the rise. Do you think companies should benefit from our bouts of panic? It’s something to think about.

What if COVID-19 did not evolve, as it ended up doing, into a global crisis? In this case, consumers would still be able to source their goods using common methods (i.e actually visiting retail stores), and therefore would not heavily rely on Amazon and other e-commerce platforms. In that case, Amazon’s economic downturn would mean that power would be held by the people, or in other words, that the company would be forced to operate based on its consumer’s demands if it wanted to maintain its success. The company would not be able to increase its prices because demands would remain constant, and instead of Amazon, we, the consumers, would be in control.