Boris Johnson to enact special laws as coronavirus profiteers shoot up

U.K. officials are seeking to pass a bill after Tory Member of the Parliament (MP) Alexander Stafford called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to halt traders and online sellers from exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johnson said that MPs are currently studying the possibility of legislating special laws that will order people to stop giving “extortionate” prices on vital and day-to-day items.

A consumer watchdog named Which? has seen a consistent overpricing on various items, including household and medical products.

Price freeze will be implemented on all essential goods

All essential goods like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and baby milk are reportedly being sold at sky-high prices as COVID-19 cases continue to proliferate across Europe.

The reports called the attention of Stafford, and the Tory MP subsequently asked the Prime Minister to stop profiteers from taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. He also asked Johnson to order suppliers and supermarkets to ensure all shelves are filled despite the ongoing quarantine across the U.K.

As a response, the Prime Minister assured that the supply chains are all good.

“Supermarkets do have adequate supplies. We have relaxed delivery hours, but it is very, very important everybody in their shopping acts reasonably and considerably for other people.”

Johnson added that profiteering is “something that we should be looking at a legislative point of view” and that the government may also have to look for “additional measures” if needed.

Special taskforce built as profiteers continue to exploit COVID-19 crisis

A special task force was created after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) saw a consistent increase of overpricing in all vital goods. The task force is said to crackdown profiteers and warns companies planning to exploit the current health crisis.

According to CMA’s Chief Executive, Andrea Coscelli, the taskforce is watching market developments meticulously so that they can immediately take necessary actions.

“We have a range of options at our disposal, from warnings to enforcement action to seeking emergency powers,” she warned.

CMA has already reached out to several traders and online stores concerning the issue. They have also warned that actions will be taken if companies break consumer protection laws.

Online stores’ slow response

As the UK government takes measures to stop black market profiteering, online trading platforms eBay and Amazon are showing a slow response in banning merchants from selling overpriced items.

Based on Which?’s investigation, there are pieces of evidence that suggest these third-party sellers still list items that are priced unreasonably high and are mostly unavailable in local stores.

Items like a thermometer—whose retail price is 40 pounds—cost 300 pounds on eBay and 150 pounds on Amazon. Meanwhile, a 50mL bottle of antibacterial sanitizer costs 100 pounds.

As a response, both third-party sellers issued a statement that they have removed already the items flagged by Which?. They will also implement further actions as a way to crack down coronavirus profiteers.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr / Number 10

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