Coronavirus: Islington Council leader urges businesses to stop ‘profiteering’ during Covid-19 pandemic

PUBLISHED: 12:17 19 March 2020

A person uses disinfectant hand gel. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 4, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

A person uses disinfectant hand gel. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 4, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

The leader of Islington Council has urged people to support businesses in the borough during the pandemic – but condemned those profiteering during the coronavirus crisis.

There have been numerous reports of businesses in the borough selling bottles of hand santister for upwards of £10, with some going for as much as £20.

Likewise, face masks have reportedly been selling for anything between £8 and £30 – and some shops are now hiking prices for paracetamol.

The NHS says there is “currently no evidence” anti-inflamatory drugs like ibuprofen “make coronavirus worse” but recommends paracetamol “until we have more information”.

Islington Council leader Richard Watts told the Gazette: “I understand this is a really difficult for businesses, many businesses out there are really struggling. I would appeal to your readers to try to, wherever they can, use local delivery services, try to shop local and support Islington businesses, because the vast majority are run by decent people trying to do the right thing.

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“However, I’m really disappointed if businesses in Islington are profiteering from this crisis. The council has no powers I’m aware of to intervene in this, but I would appeal to everyone to act ethically and try not to profiteer from this crisis.”

But the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is monitoring the situation and does have power to take direct enforcement action.

It will consider any evidence that companies may have broken competition or consumer protection law, for example by charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about the efficacy of protective equipment.

CMA chief exec Andrea Coscelli said: “We urge retailers to behave responsibly throughout the coronavirus outbreak and not to make misleading claims or charge vastly inflated prices.

“We also remind members of the public that these obligations may apply to them too if they resell goods, for example on online marketplaces.”

Speaking generally about the coronavirus, Cllr Watts added: “It’s clearly a very worrying time. I think this is rapidly shaping up into the biggest civil crisis since the second world war, and clearly very extraordinary measures are going to have to be taken to protect people from this virus.”

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