The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a taskforce to tackle unscrupulous business practices during the COVID-19 crisis.
The competition watchdog had earlier this month asked retailers to not exploit the current situation to take advantage of people, warning against practices like charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about their products.
Industry regulator General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has also reacted strongly against such practices.
My local independent chemist is more expensive than the chains but I have faithfully supported them for the last 10 years. They are repaying that support by charging £24.95 for a hand sanitizer. Is this legal or just capitalism? pic.twitter.com/oX7ngmvhOJ
— John Stealer (@JohnStealer) March 12, 2020
“The actions of a small minority are raising concerns and anger within the profession itself and more widely,” commented Duncan Rudkin, GPhC chief executive.
“Profiteering to take selfish advantage of the current challenging situation, whether with prices of shortage products or locum rates, risks bringing the profession into disrepute at a time when public confidence generally is so fragile, and so important.”
The CMA said it has already contacted traders and platforms regarding excessive pricing of hand sanitiser.
Abersoch chemist taking advantage in the Coronavirus situation/crisis. Rowlands Pharmacy Abersoch selling hand sanitizer at inflated price pic.twitter.com/TBzFDOrmxG
— Julie berry (@Julieberry1965) March 13, 2020
“The intervention in the economy necessitated by public health policy may have a substantial impact on competition, with the risk of an increase in consumer detriment. That’s why this taskforce is needed,” said Andrew Tyrie, the CMA chairman.
The taskforce will identify harmful sales and pricing practices as they emerge and warn firms suspected of exploiting these exceptional circumstances through unjustifiable prices or misleading claims.
It will also take enforcement action if there is evidence that firms may have breached competition or consumer protection law and fail to respond to warnings.
“We have a range of options at our disposal, from warnings to enforcement action to seeking emergency powers. We hope that such action will not be necessary, but we will do whatever is required to stop a small minority of businesses that may seek to exploit the present situation,” said Andrea Coscelli, the CMA chief executive.