Hurricane Irma: Amazon retailers branded as 'scum' for massive hike in drinking water prices

Online sellers accused of price gouging during emergency as water sells for 20 times its usual price.

Hurricane Irma strengthens to category 5 stormWochit

As the east coast of America braces itself for Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded, Amazon has been accused of unfairly hiking prices of drinking water being sold on the site.

Residents in Florida - where Irma is on course to hit - have been emptying supermarket shelves to stock up on supplies in preparation of the potentially catastrophic category-5 hurricane.

Bottled drinking water is in high-demand seeing many supermarkets' stock dry up. Twitter users were offering advice to panicked shoppers that they can turn to Amazon Prime to get water that's sold-out elsewhere delivered to their home before the storm arrives.

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However, they have found the price to avoid the "Lord of the Flies" supermarket scrap is high.

Consumers have branded retailers on Amazon as "scum" after severely raising the price of bottled water on the site where it is reported a case of 24 single bottles of water reached as high as $100 (£76).

Food giant Nestle, which produces its Pure Life purified water, is also seen selling a pack of 24, 16.9oz, bottles for $40 (£30) – a far cry from the usual price tag of less than $5 in supermarkets under normal conditions.

Outraged customers have hit out at the third party sellers as well as Amazon who are also advertising several listings for inflated priced water, asking them "how they sleep at night".

The act of price gouging during emergencies is illegal under Florida law and the Attorney General told the Miami Herald that any vendors, even those based outside of the state, "selling an essential commodity to persons who are using it in Florida as a result of the emergency, the business may be subject to [the] law."

Despite the evident sharp hike in prices from its vendors Amazon.com denies its pricing algorithm has adjusted the cost of items depending on location and time. It also denies employing an Uber-like surge pricing according to availability.

An Amazon.com spokesperson told IBTimes UK: "We do not engage in surge pricing. Amazon prices do not fluctuate by region or delivery location. Prices on bottled water from Amazon, and third-party sellers that are doing their own fulfilment to customers, have not widely fluctuated in the last month."

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Amazon has been accused of price-fixing in the past with its recent Prime Day sale deals appearing more tempting than they actually were. Listings were allegedly advertised with a 'previous' price tag that was much higher than it ever sold for, making it look like savings were greater and the deal more appealing.

The online retailer said at the time: "Our customers expect to come to Amazon and find the lowest prices and we work hard to meet or beat them for all customers, across our entire retail selection. The world's prices fluctuate all the time and we seek to match the lowest price."

However, US Consumer Watchdog group claimed it had tracked price patterns on over 1,000 products in two separate studies and discovered that 61% of the items surveyed were being given "bogus prices" to create discounts that didn't really exist.

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