Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the scarcity of masks, Facebook has announced that it will ban ads and commerce listings for face masks on both Facebook and Instagram. Representatives from Facebook explain that they are trying to curb people from using the public health crisis to create profit and this ban will come into effect in the next few days. Currently, there is a global shortage of face masks. According to TIME, China is the world’s largest producer of face masks but because of the current situation, they are unable to meet their own demand.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had previously warned that if any shortages of face masks and any other equipment occur, it could potentially leave healthcare workers caring for those who are infected, in a very vulnerable state. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Ex-Deputy Health Minister, Dr Lee Boon Chye reiterated the need to wash hands thoroughly with soap and explained that those who do not exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19 do not need to wear a face mask.
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, took to Twitter to state “We’re banning ads and commerce listings selling medical face masks on Instagram and Facebook. Supplies are short, prices are up, and we’re against people exploiting this public health emergency.”
Facebook also noted in their announcement that they are already actively prohibiting people from making health or medical claims related to the coronavirus in product listings.
On our local front, Malaysia is also actively trying to deter profiteering activities of face masks with the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs performing a wide-scale check up on over 2453 business conducting premises last month. The ministry then proceeded to seize a total of RM4,343 worth of goods and issued compounds amounting to RM67,400.
Last week, a pharmacy in Pasir Mas was found to have committed an offence under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 for selling face masks to customers with the condition that they must also purchase hand sanitisers. Those found guilty can be sentenced up to a fine up to RM100,000 or imprisonment of up to three years, or both.
Face masks are regulated goods and action can be taken against those that take advantage to increase prices. The maximum retail price is RM7 per box (100 pcs) for 1-ply (earloop) face masks and RM10 per box (100 pcs) for 2-ply (earloop) face masks. The 3-ply face mask (tie-on, ear & head loop) should not be priced higher than RM0.80 per piece while the N95 masks should not exceed RM6.00 per unit.