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Rogue traders 'cashing in on coronavirus fear': Government could regulate prices of key good

Rogue retailers should not ‘cash in on fear’ and panic-buying by imposing big mark-ups on household essentials, a watchdog warned yesterday.

The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) also said the Government may regulate the price of key products to prevent rip-offs.

The goods affected could include everything from hand sanitiser, toilet paper and painkillers to food staples including pasta and rice.

The CMA suggested the intervention would prevent retailers and individuals offering products at vastly inflated prices on eBay or Amazon. It said it wanted to ensure traders did ‘not exploit the current situation to take advantage of people’.

Tesco is packed full of customers stockpiling. There are fears goods including hand sanitiser, toilet paper and painkillers could have their prices hiked

The watchdog has also warned firms not to make false claims for products, including the effectiveness of face masks, to boost sales.

CMA chairman Lord Tyrie said: ‘We will do whatever we can to act against rip-offs and misleading claims. Where we can’t act, we’ll advise government on further steps they could take if necessary.’

A 100ml bottle of Cuticura hand gel costs £1.55 on the Boots website. But Amazon sellers have been asking £10 for 50ml.

Similarly, 250ml bottles of Carex handwash can be bought for £1 each from Boots online, while packs of six are being advertised for more than £16 on Amazon.

An eBay seller wanted £8.50 for a 60ml travel-size bottle of Ecofinest Hand Sanitiser Gel Alcohol Rub Wash, while another was selling a 300ml bottle of Eden 99.9% Alcohol Hand Sanitiser for £18.99.

Amazon pledged to tackle the issue yesterday after US senator Ed Markey complained of ‘unjustifiably high prices’.

A spokesman blamed third-party sellers, adding: ‘We agree with Senator Markey – there is no place for price-gouging on Amazon.

‘That’s why our teams are monitoring our store 24/7 and have already removed tens of thousands of offers for attempted price-gouging. We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to take advantage of this global crisis and, in addition to removing these offers, we are terminating accounts.’

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My view: It is sad that bad people are attempting to take advantage of this global crisis, the panic is worse than the virus.

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