Coronavirus: Taskforce to target pandemic profiteers in crackdown

A taskforce has been launched to crack down on businesses seeking to exploit the escalating coronavirus emergency.

The move by the competition watchdog comes as the worsening public health crisis threatens to wreak economic havoc.

The growing outbreak of COVID-19 – the disease caused by coronavrius – has prompted widespread concerns that unscrupulous firms are seeking to rip off the public, such as charging excessive prices for goods or making misleading claims about products.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) revealed it has already been in touch with retailers about the hefty amounts being demanded for hand sanitiser.

It has now pledged it will do “whatever is required” to combat rogue traders.

The aim of the taskforce is to:

  • Identify harmful sales and pricing practices
  • Warn firms suspected of exploiting the “exceptional circumstances” and people’s vulnerability
  • Take action if there is evidence firms may have broken the law and failed to respond to warnings
  • Provide advice on emergency legislation to close loopholes
  • Help ensure competition law does not hamper moves to protect public health and essential supplies

The government is already moving to relax the rules to allow the supermarkets to work together to keep shelves stocked, shops open and delivery vans running in the face of the pandemic.

Ministers said the action would allow retailers to share data with each other on stock levels, co-operate to keep shops open, or share distribution depots and delivery vans.

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