Retailers and traders warned: Don´t rip off the public on coronavirus

Competition watchdog will prosecute firms that take advantage of coronavirus panic by hiking prices of hand sanitisers and disinfectants

  • Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said firms could be prosecuted
  • Stores across the UK have been limited the amount of products people purchase
  • Government could implement pricing measures if the problems continue  

The competition watchdog has warned firms could be prosecuted or fined if they hike prices on products such as hand sanitisers and disinfectants as people continue to panic about the coronavirus. 

Officials at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) today said they would take strict action.  

High street chains across the country have also been limiting purchases of hand sanistisers to two per customer as many rushed to the shelves to get their hands on the preventative products.

The CMA also said it would consider writing to the Government to implement pricing measures for certain products if problems arise.

Cleaning products as well as items such as hand sanitisers have been in high demand. Officials have now warned companies to not rip off the public 

There are now 90 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Britain, after three more were confirmed in Scotland this morning

Others have also pledged to keep prices low, despite reports of manufacturers increasing their prices.

In a statement, the watchdog said it wants to ‘ensure that traders do not exploit the current situation to take advantage of people’.

‘It will consider any evidence that companies may have broken competition or consumer protection law, for example by charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about the efficacy of protective equipment.

‘And it will take direct enforcement action in appropriate cases.

‘In addition, the CMA will assess whether it should advise Government to consider taking direct action to regulate prices.’

Chairman of the CMA Lord Tyrie added: ‘We will do whatever we can to act against rip-offs and misleading claims, using any or all of our tools; and where we can’t act, we’ll advise government on further steps they could take, if necessary.’

Chief executive Andrea Coscelli also said retailers had a responsibility to keep customers informed and not see it as an opportunity to sell more products.

He added: ‘We urge retailers to behave responsibly throughout the coronavirus outbreak and not to make misleading claims or charge vastly-inflated prices.

More than 96,000 people around the world have been officially diagnosed with the coronavirus and more than 3,300 have died

‘We also remind members of the public that these obligations may apply to them too if they resell goods, for example on online marketplaces.’

Reuters checks on Amazon on Thursday found a 600ml bottle of Defendol hospital grade antibacterial hand gel on offer by three different sellers at either 129 pounds ($166.63) or 150 pounds ($193.76).

The same product was selling for 19 pounds last week, according to price tracking website camelcamelcamel and was also still available on high street pharmacy Superdrug’s website at 3.49 pounds.

Italian authorities last month began an investigation into rocketing online prices for hygienic masks and sanitising gels following the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy.

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