/ Home & Energy

Coronavirus pandemic: tell us your consumer concerns

We’ve been publishing key information around COVID-19. But in this unprecedented situation, you can help: what consumer issues matter most to you?

Get all the latest news and advice from our coronavirus hub

01/04/2020: The impact on your life

Thank you to everyone who took part in the polls on 17 March – the results help inform our research and shape our advice content.

Today we’ve added three more questions in the polls below. Please do let us know how the situation has impacted on your day-to-day life in the comments.

How often are you shopping for groceries during the lockdown? (either online or in store)
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Are you able to find all of your essential items when grocery shopping?
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Taking into account the government's announcements about financial support, how worried are you about your personal finances?
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Have you asked your bank, energy provider, or other service provider for additional help during the pandemic? What happened?

No, and I do not intend to (65%, 591 Votes)

No - I would expect them to contact me (18%, 160 Votes)

They proactively contacted me with what support they could offer (7%, 61 Votes)

Something else (tell us in the comments) (5%, 49 Votes)

Yes, but they were not able to offer me the support I needed (2%, 19 Votes)

Yes - they offered me the help I asked for (2%, 16 Votes)

Yes - they offered me some help, but less than I expected (1%, 8 Votes)

Yes - they were able to offer me help beyond what my expectations were (0%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 907

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17/03/2020: Are you clear on the latest advice?

Yesterday the government announced that everyone should avoid ‘non-essential’ travel and contact with others. But are you clear on what the new advice means for you?

Answer the questions below as we continue to address how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting people’s lives.

These polls have now closed.

13/03/2020: Tell us your consumer concerns

Experts from all corners of Which? have been putting their heads together to ensure we’re giving you the key information you need to protect yourself, protect your money and make important decisions.

You’ll find more information on how to manage the consumer impact of the pandemic across which.co.uk, including:

How you can protect yourself and others

What each supermarket is doing to manage and avoid supply issues

What the pandemic means for mortgages, savings, and other investments

What it means for your travel plans, or if events are cancelled

Guidance for parents whose children may be affected, including infant pain relief, taking a child’s temperature, and how to identify a rash

Which? Members can also get tailored one-to-one legal advice from Which? Legal

We’ll keep updating this list as more advice is added.

What questions do you have?

We need to know what you want to know. Tell us how the coronavirus is impacting you, especially:

Your travel plans: are you still planning your holidays? Had issues with rebooking for later, or perhaps have had to cancel?

Your experience of the pandemic: are you spotting price gouging, shortages, dodgy products, or other issues online or in shops that aren’t being reported?

Self-isolation: what problems or challenges are you coming up against whilst staying in doors? How are you managing your finances? What information would you find useful?

Any other consumer questions: what would you like to know that you haven’t found an answer for yet?

Comments
John Casebourne says:
15 April 2020

It’s not just items like you’ve suggested but food prices have also gone up and offers have decreased, may not be that noticeable to some people but but just look around and note for yourselves more than 10% in some cases. Suppose they will blame that one on Brexit !

These people that are profiteering should be treated as black marketeers and either imprisoned and or fined and who they are should be made public as they are the lowest of the low, also we should boycott their businesses . There is however a question here i e why are the stores etc not refusing to do business with the racketeers ?

Phil says:
15 April 2020

Walked into local Tesco Metro, went to buy a 30 thin slice pack of chicken gone up from £2.00 to £3.00, powdered milk had rocketed up to £4.00 (superstore), theiving ba****rds. So dumped all I was buying on the cashiers desk and walked out.

Asda trying to keep prices sensible doing a fair job. Sainsbury’s some fair pricing some high but only started going in as boycotting Tesco but will keep an eye on

Rip Off Britain eh, we won’t forget

Annoyance is understandable but that action is thoughtless – it’s not the cashier’s fault – he/she is taking a risk by being there to serve customers.

It also means that stock has to be condemned and cannot go back on sale in case it has been interfered with as part of the protest.

Sandy says:
15 April 2020

JMart have increased the price of a box of 100 non latex gloves from £4:99 to £12:99 !

Ruth says yes I have noticed price increases on normal every day items such as baked beans I live in my own so buy small tins Heinz’s gone up from 65p to 70p supermarkets should ashamed of themselves
No excuse as petrol has come down at the pumps which usually puts prices up re delivery costs

You think 65p for a small can of beans is OK though? I pay £1 for 4 large cans, eat half of one and put the rest of the can in a tub into the fridge, it easily lasts a few days chilled.

Nobody is forcing you to buy them. If you don’t like the price increase, buy elsewhere.

I always have powdered skimmed milk in hot drinks, I prefer the taste. We cannot source our regular brand and what Tesco is selling has ROCKETED to £4.00! It was NEVER this price previously. Shame on you Tesco!

I have been reporting price gouging on Ebay from day one. At first they didn’t even have a category for it. Then to be fair they have price gouging as a category & have banned private sellers from selling the initial tranche of goods, toilet rolls, sanitizer, wipes. The real problem is that the vile creatures are still supermarket shopping, particularly flour/dried/tinned goods & selling on. Ebay have no mechanism for reporting a SELLER, only each listing. It takes a long time to click on other items & report all grocery items they have. Also anyone who buys in/makes goods to sell on should be registered as a business seller thereby providing the various consumer rights to the buyers. These are private sellers & should be banned en masse for this violation alone. Ebay must be made to prohibit any private sellers from selling all food/drink/household cleaning items as they cannot possibly be selling other than bought in goods.

Mike Horton says:
15 April 2020

What is price gouging.

Very strange how the virus is causing the bastardisation of the English language. We now have
no future, We’r now going forward, but are we. I don’t think so.

It’s an American term, like Black Friday. From Wikipedia:

“Price gouging occurs when a seller increases the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair. Usually, this event occurs after a demand or supply shock. Common examples include price increases of basic necessities after natural disasters. In precise, legal usage, it is the name of a crime that applies in some jurisdictions of the United States during civil emergencies. In less precise usage, it can refer either to prices obtained by practices inconsistent with a competitive free market or to windfall profits. Price gouging may be considered exploitative and unethical.

The term is similar to profiteering but can be distinguished by being short-term and localized and by being restricted to essentials such as food, clothing, shelter, medicine and equipment needed to preserve life and property. In jurisdictions where there is no such crime, the term may still be used to pressure firms to refrain from such behavior.”

I am of course sympathetic to those struggling with food prices on a limited budget at the best of times, but it is not reasonable to suggest that British supermarkets are guilty of exploitation.

Having lived and shopped for food in a number of countries, I have always been amazed and grateful for the low prices charged for food in the UK. I still remember paying $4 CAN – about £3 at the time – for ½ pound of butter in 2012, a similar amount for 4 pints of milk, a jar of jam and maybe $6 CAN for a box of breakfast cereal. A typical weekly shop of essentials for one in Toronto (about as much food as I could squeeze into my rucksack) would cost me about $100 CAN. Prices in the UK are still about 30% less, even eight years later. (See recent FT link below for how little the UK pays compared to most of the rest of the world as a percentage of average income.)

I am sure some of you have experienced similar prices shopping for food in Europe, but have perhaps put it down to a “poor” £/€ exchange rate and blamed the Chancellor, rather than the simple FACT that most Europeans prioritize healthy food over expensive housing and smart cars.

In my view, food in the UK has been far too cheap. This is partly as a result of the very efficient retail distribution network in the UK, high population density with low logistical costs and, I strongly suspect, a willingness to exploit low income farmers in both the UK and less affluent parts of the world.

Given this is a global pandemic and the UK imports maybe 50% of its food, I suggest we get used to paying a fairer price for what we eat, and maybe the fact that imports from Italy and Spain will be in very short supply this year. I also suspect that stores like Aldi and Lidl will have more difficulty sourcing their UK bargain lines from East European countries, and prefer to sell more of it at higher prices in their home market of Germany.

The only thing that can help us is for British shoppers to behave rationally. Stop bidding up prices by causing artificial shortages of Italian pasta, tinned tomatoes and Canadian bread flour, whilst fresh foods which we would normally buy at this time of year are sitting rotting on supermarket shelves. We can be sure that supermarkets will not be lowering prices, whilst they have to cover this extraordinary wastage in their supply chains.

I’m sure this post won’t be popular, but this is the new normal, at least until the world can resume its old ways of working.

http://www.ft.com/content/cdd62792-0e85-11e9-acdc-4d9976f1533b

I agree with your comment, Em. Overall I think the UK’s bricks-&-mortar retail system is fair and reasonably well-regulated. The same is not true for retail carried on through on-line market places where the seller is generally not visible.

I too have always been in disbelief at the extremely low prices for food in UK (and, yes, certainly farmers are exploited by some of the big supermarkets. Let’s not talk about the harsh conditions of some farmers, suicide rates amongst farmers etc).
I am currently “stuck” in Macau due to the coronavirus. My salary here was very comparable to my salary in the UK. Yet food prices are for many items DOUBLE UK prices, sometimes far more.
I was also speaking to a former schoolmate who similarly said that her relative in Ireland was very envious of our low UK food prices.
Remember too that we, as a nation, throw away c.40% of our food. That is deplorable.
That, of course, does not excuse the sometimes awful greed of sellers – and I am truly sorry for your loss and your totally understandable frustration and anger.
Stay safe!

After the the Supermarkets have screwed the suppliers prices, sent many Milk Farmers into debt they still want more and they get a business rate holiday from the Government. Consumers and the High St all suffer while the big supermarket chains increase their profit.

Oh not another farmer rant. Farming is a business. If you can’t compete with the other farmers, go bust. Clearly there are too many farmers if the prices are too low to make a profit.

What’s all this about ‘price gouging’ ??? This plain ‘old fashioned’ Profiteering, and any, shop, dealer, or business outlet, increasing prices just due to ‘increased demand’, should face extreme penalties, (including prison sentences) during these times of crisis…(I’m sure that in the past, ‘they’ would have faced far more extreme penalties)…

Stanley Macnab says:
15 April 2020

I’m with you. Profiteering I know about.”Price gouging” sounds like MBA (More B******t from America).

They’re just running a business. Supply and demand dictates either the price goes up or they run out. You won’t get any cheaply either way, live with it.

If rising demand leads to higher prices [which are then sustained] then in a normal market I would expect an increase in supply to be stimulated lowering the price until equilibrium is re-established.

I wonder how far the price rises will go before the government moves in. There seems to be a trend to quietly push prices up and there also seems to be shortages of normal groceries when we are told that supply chains are robust. I would like a truthful overview of the current situation, what exactly is happening in supermarkets and what we can expect in future. The more uncertain the supplies become the more the public will react and the greater temptation to make them more expensive. I can understand that products for hand cleaning are probably being diverted to the NHS and Care establishments but who is buying all the flour, and why is that in short supply? Why can’t we go into the supermarket with a normal shopping list and leave with everything on it? People have (reportedly) stopped panic buying and with queues to get into stores, the turn over should be much less in any case. There is a hidden weakness in the system somewhere but no one is saying what that is. Possible culprits are customer greed, which must cease at some time as funds run out, supply shortages what and why? or delivery problems.
Worryingly many ordinary non food products are shooting up in price and this site is full up with people telling us of profiteering when stocks are readily available and people want to get on with jobs in the house and garden. Once again the government is keeping very quiet on all of this and it is time it started flexing muscles, and maybe rationing things and price capping them. I hope someone is keeping track on the on line sites selling produce, bought from supermarkets, at high prices. If authorities can garner the information about us so easily, it shouldn’t be difficult to keep a database of these wicked people and round them up when the crisis abates. They can also do that for stores which do the same. The virus is a health problem, it should not be turned into an excuse for a grab and take market. So many people are risking lives, working night and day and performing acts of courage and friendship. We must not let the scum spoil their efforts.

Vynor – Did you see the article in the Which? Weekly Scoop dated 10 April 2020? It revealed “the truth behind coronavirus stockpiling”. It was quite an interesting overview of what has been happening and why, and what might happen in the future. The Weekly Scoop is published for subscribers so I will not give a link.

According to something I saw on our BBC regional news magazine the reason why flour has been in short supply is that most flour produced in this country is for the industrial and commercial markets and therefore bagged in large sacks. Mills are not equipped or organised to produce little bags for home baking on the scale now demanded, but some mills are now working 24/7 in order to meet demand.

Apparently most bread flour in the UK is made from home-grown cereals and not imported, but grain stocks are ample because demand for bread from the catering and hospitality trades has fallen as a result of the current restrictions.

Rita Kent says:
15 April 2020

Tesco’s hasn’t had coffee mate for the last few weeks so I looked at eBay and Amazon. I found one on Amazon at a reasonable price but other sellers have increased the price dramatically. The same with garden compost especially the ericaceous range.

I bought Coffee Mate yesterday from B & M, they had plenty there. 1 kg size for £3.99.

Peter H says:
15 April 2020

Tescos are really excelling themselves in the unreliability stakes – this past four weeks i have been unable to buy own-brand savers baked beans at all, and many days they have only had the tasteless and expensive “no added sugar” variety or else only tiny tins of expensive Heinz ..So there is no shortage, we are constantly told… Rubbish… And why are there never any packs of small potatoes in the fresh veg section any more? Again this has been the situation for several weeks, whatever time of day or day of week. And the choice of many other items is abysmal. I am not talking hand-sanitisers or suchlike but basic staple grocery items where there is allegedly “no supply problem”. What the hell is going on? I am having to make more trips instead of less, which is counter-productive and against the advice to stay at home as much as possible. By the way, this is a metro-size store, not a poky express or convenience outlet. And the queuing system is ridiculous too – to have to queue for ages to get through a checkout, when only 2 out of 5 are open – and this is not staff shortage but “we are told we can’t open any more”. The self service tills are rubbish, we all know that, and universally disliked by customers who have to constantly call on staff for assistance. i wish we had a proper choice of supermarket but we can’t exactly drive ten miles to the nearest Aldi instead.

Do what I do, home delivery. I pick the 7pm-11pm slot and it’s only £1. I did this before the virus, as it saves me a lot of time driving there and wandering around the shop trying to find things that the stupid managers have moved to another aisle yet again. Plus I can just duplicate the last order with the click of a mouse, then just change the quantity of a few things.

Only 10 miles to Aldi lucky you, and what’s a delivery slot?

How do we report all these local shops that are getting away with it and are often far worse than internet sellers?

Why bother? If you don’t agree with what they’re doing, shop elsewhere.

Keith Woodthorpe says:
15 April 2020

Just remember, name and shame them in local media and boycott them in future

Noticing printer ink prices are some 2 & 3 more expensive than last month.

Giovanni Bastia says:
15 April 2020

I thought I was loughing when I found on ebay a bag of 1200 yorkshire tea bags at “only” 20Pds, so I ordered one. It never arrived. This is a case of counting chickens before they hatch (hope correct).
When this product restarted to appear on the shelves, after about 20 days we cancelled the order and we are now waiting for the promised refund. On a little town marked where usually any item is sold for
50p or 1pound, they were selling 75ml hand sanitizer for a fiver!!

Jason Cornett says:
15 April 2020

B&M were charging £50 for a box of 50 poor quality surgical type masks. They have now reduced them to £30 which is still a 300% mark up from what Lloyd’s chemists charge for their better quality one’s.

Helen Harrington says:
15 April 2020

I would interpret the word gouging as massively inflating the price of something, which I have not come across yet, but I have heard rumours of bags of flour on eBay for £10. I could not get flour from Ocado recently but I would not pay £10 on eBay so I will just do without it. I have noticed that everything on Ocado is standard price now and there are very few offers anymore because Ocado are in huge demand and people will accept the prices whatever they are, but I wouldn’t call that price gouging.

Not Price gouging, but I find “Waitrose” delivery system is wasteful to extremely elderly and vulnerable customers. As one these, 100ft from my local Waitrose and a regular customer, and as a widow, I need little, certainly not £60 order before delivery. Yet again Waitrose is gone for max profit, I have my NHS, UK. Gov letters, have waited over a month for them to setup ‘the primary deliver system’ tacked on to the massive back log. As to the former ‘No Contact’ was made via email, I only just found this extension to the delivery Slots (at least a weeks worth that only I and a few others can see) but £60 of goods for one person is a kick in the teeth. Goldsworth Park, Woking, Surrey. Please pardon this Rant……

I have the opposite with Tesco here. They have a maximum amount not only per item, but total number of items, so I had to book two deliveries in one week. Wasting their time aswell as mine.

Barbara Pearson says:
16 April 2020

I am totally disgusted by the number of people on Facebook selling masks at ridiculous prices! I think Facebook should not allow them on their site, because these are scumbag profiteers !

I know there is and has been a lot of online price gouging which is of course a disgrace that needs to be stopped. There are however another group of companies that already run a virtual cartel -the big four supermarkets – prices have increased across the board, vouchers and price reductions/cuts are all but gone. These retailers are making an absolute killing by ripping us off, it’s time for Which? to set about them and shame them into stopping. I know there is no point in asking the Government to intervene the companies are run by Tory donors and supporters, so they will never act against them.

Doug – Discounts have traditionally been used to shift stock. If that is no longer necessary the discounts disappear.

I am not seeing much in the way of unjustified price increases by the supermarkets; the more annoying feature of the present position is the uncertainty over availabiity and the withdrawal of many lines [e.g. smaller pack sizes or products with minority appeal] in order to rationalise the merchandise and feed the on-line ordering and delivery system which is under great pressure.