Coronavirus: Warning to traders overcharging during pandemic

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Trading Standards says it has received a high volume of reports of price gouging

Trading Standards has issued a number of enforcement notices to traders engaged in profiteering during the coronavirus outbreak.

The body says it has received a high volume of reports of price gouging – when traders increase the price of goods or services unreasonably.

People have reported small bottles of hand sanitiser being sold for £13 and eight kitchen rolls for £15 in NI.

Other complaints include liquid paracetamol rising from £3.69 to £7.49.

Some customers have raised concerns about meat packs doubling in price and individual toilet rolls being sold from a multi-pack.

There is no specific law which tackles the issue – businesses are free to set their own prices – but the Competition and Markets Authority is working to ensure consumers are not being exploited.

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Remember these scenes early on in the coronavirus outbreak?

Damien Doherty, chief inspector of the Trading Standards Service, said while the vast majority of NI businesses had responded responsibly, a minority had engaged in profiteering.

“Those inflating prices to profit off the backs of their communities are adding to their distress and may be severely damaging their reputation,” he said.

“Consumers in Northern Ireland are likely to remember those businesses who attempted to profiteer and may well vote with their wallets once this crisis ends.

“I would encourage anyone who feels that business has unfairly inflated the price of goods or services to contact us on 0300 123 6262.”

Trading Standards is working alongside the Consumer Council, which called on retailers to ensure they are giving consumers a fair price.

The Competition and Markets Authority has launched a taskforce to crack down on businesses that may be engaging in price gouging and to consider whether there have been any breaches of competition or consumer laws.

The authority is also asking consumers to report businesses which are behaving unfairly.

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