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Have you spotted coronavirus profiteering?

We’ve found that Amazon and eBay are still failing to get to grips with blatant coronavirus price-gouging. We’re now calling for urgent government action.

10/04/2020: Time for government action

More than a month after the competition regulator raised the alarm, and despite a warning from the Prime Minister, we’ve found widespread evidence of sellers hawking household items for rip-off prices.

It’s time for the government, working with the CMA, to step in with strong action to stamp out price-gouging and keep the price of vital goods reasonable.

Do you agree that the government needs to step in and put a stop to this? Have you spotted further examples of price gouging?

Let us know in the comments and help us stamp this out.

03/03/2020: Have you spotted dubious products/surge pricing?

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, some unscrupulous sellers have looked to take advantage by selling misleading, unnecessary and, in some cases, fake products on sites such as Amazon.

Coronavirus outbreak: your travel questions answered

Amazon says it has removed ‘tens of thousands’ of products from sale, some of which have even included fake treatments and cures for Covid-19.

While work is being done to remove these products, it would appear that some are slipping through. We spotted a ‘coronavirus test for dogs and cats’ being sold for as much as £43.82.

More concerning, perhaps, is that a reviewer even claimed to have bought and used it on themselves. It would appear that Amazon has now removed the product from sale.

Have you spotted a questionable product relating to the virus for sale on Amazon or anywhere else? If so, let us know in the comments.

Surge pricing and high demand

Along with dubious products, we’ve also seen examples of surge pricing and the high demand of antibacterial products.

A multipack of Carex hand sanitiser was spotted on sale at around 10 times its normal price, while a six-pack of Clinell wipes has been seen for as much as £198.99 from a 3rd-party marketplace seller.

Away from Amazon, we’ve been receiving a number of reports of shops completely selling out of anti-bacterial hand gel.

Which? has checked major retailers and found that most have indeed sold out across many stores. Boots has put a limit on the amount one customer can buy at any time.

If you can’t find any, don’t panic; washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water is the best option.

With hand gel disappearing from the shelves, it now appears to be being sold for hugely inflated prices on eBay:

A quick look at the site this morning shows prices up to £20 for just one bottle.

Have you spotted dubious coronavirus-related products on sale online or even in the shops? If so, what were they? And what do they claim to be able to do?

Seen a product on sale at an extreme price? Let us know in the comments.


George mentions a coronavirus test for dogs and cats. There is no evidence that pets can become infected with coronavirus. From the World Health Organisation:

The link includes: “hong-kong-warns-residents-not-to-kiss-pets-after-dog-contracts-coronavirus”, yet there is nothing in the Guardian article that suggests pets can contract coronavirus or be carriers, any more than a used handkerchief or plastic bag could be a carrier.

If there is evidence of a real risk we are likely to find out soon.

Frankly, given where the average pooch has its nose a lot of the time, can’t imagine why anyone would seriously consider kissing any dog?

Quite. There are some unpleasant diseases you can catch from dogs.

I hope that no pets are abandoned by owners as a result of unsubstantiated information in the news.

Agreed. It is far more likely that someone with Corona Virus will handle a pet, leave traces of the virus on that pet’s coat, which is then picked up by someone else touching/kissing the pet.

I am going out for a decent walk each day and everyone is keeping a respectful distance from each other, but not everyone keeps their dog on the lead. 🙁

If someone Covid-19 positive kisses an animal then it is theoretically possible for the next person to kiss the animal to catch it, but the WHO is quite definite about it. Cats and dogs cannot catch Covid-19.

According to another news report (Sorry, I don’t remember where, I didn’t think I needed to) the test was unreliable and registered a false positive, A proper test revealed the animal to be virus-free.

Em says:
3 March 2020

JSP Flexinet™ Mask FFP2 being sold on Amazon for £59.99 each. These are one-time, disposable masks.

The bad new for anyone stupid enough to buy one is:- According to HSE report RR619, FFP2 masks do NOT offer adequate protection against influenza-type bioaerosols (and nor do surgical masks, that were never designed for this purpose.)

The worse news is:- I’ve just bought 5 today from a regular supplier, to replenish depleted stock used for hazardous building works (plaster dust, etc.), for £1.99 each.

So the message for anyone panic-buying is at least buy a product that is fit for purpose and stop disrupting everyone else from getting on with their work, including health care professionals who DO need surgical masks to protect both their patients and themselves.

Em says:
3 March 2020

HBS Pharmacy, Preston selling Carex Aloe Vera Hand Gel 50ml for £16.99 on Amazon. As an NHS dispensing chemist, they should be ashamed of themselves.

I picked one up from Sainsburys Petrol Station for £1.10 yesterday, to replace the empty one in the car.

The same product is available from an eBay seller for £99.00 + £3.48 delivery. 🙁

Em says:
3 March 2020

I wonder if a glass of Dom Perignon Vintage Champagne has anti-viral properties? It’s a lot cheaper.

I’d go for cask-strength Islay malt. 🙂

I’ve still got some Aguadente 60° proof. The locals in Madeira swore by it to cure their ills.

70% alcohol (around 120 proof) is generally considered to have the greatest antimicrobial effect and is certainly better than pure alcohol.

Kevin says:
5 March 2020

Wavechange, even at cask strength, a malt may be lower than the required 60% and the older it is the lower it will be.

I believe in the interests of public health any you have should be discarded to avoid misuse. I offer a comprehensive disposal service should you need it.

🙂 🙂 🙂 I think I will stick to washing my hands in soapy water and keep the cask-strength malt for internal use, after addition of a little water. Thanks for your kind offer, Kevin.

These are good examples – if further proof were needed – of how the human regresses to primitive behaviour when there is a threat or an opportunity. Exploiting people during a period of weakness and alarm is a shameful activity; I hope they do not prosper.

Em says:
3 March 2020

For some reason, I keep humming the theme tune to “The Third Man” whenever I see these adverts.

Blame the media for exploiting the situation to create sensational news. Empty shelves, interviewing the opposition to stick the knife in, NHS bashing . . . Panic buying is down to them and the way they negatively present news, sticking to the one subject. Then their next sensational news stories will be all the starving people who couldn’t afford to stockpile with more government-bashing interviews.

The TV news channels have a lot to answer for.

Em – Beware of Lyme Disease.

Alfa – I think the BBC News might have been trying to counter the sensational reportage last night by putting the coronavirus outbreak in proportion by reference to previous and far more deadly epidemics, by de-escalating the sense of panic, and emphasising the need for sensible hygiene routines using ordinary soap and hot water.

There is no general need for people to use sanitising gel or anti-bacterial handwash so a run on such products is not justified.

Soap and water is fine if available but alcohol-based products can be used when out and about.

I am a bit mystified by face masks. Are they for preventing the inhalation of infected atmosphere by the wearer, for preventing the exhalation of infection by the wearer, for preventing the wearer from contaminating their mouth and nose area from infected hands, or just to look savvy?

Their only function, such as it is, is to prevent the already infected from spreading the disease. Corvid 19 seems to have benefited from so-called ‘super–spreaders’. But if I were an evil mastermind, bent on world domination, this is the virus I would have engineered. Can be carried by some for a long time before symptoms appear, is extremely infectious and kills the old and the ill.

But the eyes remain unprotected, and they’re often the main route for infection.

Never heard of Plague Inc, George.

Ecohydra hand foam ludicrous price on eBay £26.99 for 2 when boots sell for £3.99 and available from manufacturers for £3.49…. Complete scandal and I thought eBay were supposed to be stamping this out in relation to coronanvirus

Haggis says:
4 March 2020

One thing you have to concede is that soap and water is not always available so hand gels have a role. On Amazon a 50p 50ml bottle of gel now sells for £40!! I have lost count of the number of establishments I have been in where there is one working tap and only cold water. No hot water. No soap. No paper towels. A broken hand dryer. What is also sad is that telling people to wash their hands and cover their mouths is like trying to herd cats! I was on a crowded train yesterday with standing room only and you were about a foot or so away from four or five other passengers, with people coughing, sniffng and wiping their noses with their hands! Something like 75% of adult males use the toilet without washing their hands afterwards – these people won’t be taught!

When soap and hot water are not available antiseptic wipes are a useful alternative and are easy to carry around. Many brands are available They can also be used for wiping surfaces before contact.

Supermarket trolley handles must be a good source of infection. The deli, salad and cheese counters in some shops do not have glass or perspex screens which is surely asking for trouble.

Haggis says:
4 March 2020

One other thing – there are reports that the Covid-19 virus can survive outside the human body for as long as 4 hours on hard surfaces. I contacted Sainsburys to ask what their policy was regarding cleaning surfaces commonly touched by customers, e.g. trolley and basket handles, hand scanners, touchscreens and PIN pad keypads. Short answer is they don’t clean items, rather they rely on customers to wash their hands when appropriate. I appreciate they can’t deep clean everything all the time, but a policy of never cleaning stuff doesn’t help.

Carex hand sanitiser £3,500 per bottle on Ebay from seller guineapig518. Yesterday, the highest price was only £1,000. There’s always someone greedy enough to try this scam. Hopefully there isn’t anyone stupid enough to press the Buy It Now button.

A friend tells me that the shelves of Waitrose have been emptied of toilet rolls. It is worse in Australia where people have stockpiling it due to the coronavirus problem. I hope we are not going to be silly in the UK.

It’s also not really reassuring to learn that the NHS ICE and critical care facilities are only ranked 23rd out of 31 countries, and that hospital bed provision is almost bottom, thanks to years of government cuts.

It is possible that NHS resources have been allowed to decline in response to the growth of the private health sector. That is irresponsible.

While the numbers of beds in different categories per thousand population is interesting I would prefer the metrics to be based on the general health of the population. I suspect that would tell a far worse story.

Despite the promises about more staff, facilities and other resources, and the billions that are, allegedly, being poured into the NHS, it never seems to be able to turn the corner. In my opinion it does a superb job for the patients who present, but it is clear that a lot of people are not accessing it because they know they will have a long wait or will not be able to get the treatment they really need.

Ian – Could you give a source for the rankings you have quoted? I should like to learn more. There seem to be several conflicting reports of the NHS’s international ranking and there are inconsistencies in the measures used for the comparisons. There seems to be a general view that outcomes are more important than inputs and better indicators of achievement or effectiveness.

This looked at ICU care in particular, John, and the precise quote from the Guardian about being 23rd out of 31 European nations was mis-tagged, so I don’t have the origin document.

“Compared with other European countries the UK ranked 23rd of 31 in terms of ICU beds per head of population and 29th of 31 for all hospital beds. Germany has approximately four times as many ICU beds per capita as the UK and the USA perhaps 10-fold as many.”

This at the very time when the NHS is supposed to be getting £350m per week extra (remember the bus?) and at a time when the government can’t say it wasn’t warned.

SARS emerged initially, followed by MERS and now SARS Covid 19. We’ve had ten years to ensure the NHS was ready for a pandemic, so is it?

Kevin says:
5 March 2020

It would be helpful if the media stopped using the alarming, inaccurate, and misleading graphical representations of the virus, making it look like a crimson alien death star.

I popped into the Body Shop today to pick some hand sanitiser up as theirs at least has a nice fragrance. All sold out and has been for weeks. Looked on ebay out of curiosity. There is someone trying to sell an open bottle of it!

Hazel says:
9 March 2020

I need paracetamol for my husbands chronic back pain and find that my local supermarkets are sold out??and that Saimsbury has hiked the price of 16 to 90p. I’m gobsmaked a) that people are allowed to buy in quantity and b) that some shops are taking advantage

Makro normally sell Cushelle toilet tissue with a BOGOFF offer. They have now removed the offer because as their note says “Panic buying”, so effectively doubling the price of the product I needed for business offices. Sensible move or profiteering?
They could have restricted the quantity purchased to 2 units rather than doubling the price.

I wonder if we will talk about the Myth of the Corona Virus in 70 years like we talk about the Myth of the Blitz now. So much for pulling together in times of crisis.

Kevin says:
10 March 2020

I suspect the people talking about the myth of coronavirus would probably refer to other historical events as myths too.

The MERS coronavirus has a mortality of 30%, SARS was 10%, luckily neither of these have Covid19 contagion rates.

This will play out in with variable effects in countries with different systems. It should inform our policies toward public health and especially on strenthening public health in those countries which don’t have the wealth we have, and are run by thieving tyrants who steal public funds and then buy mansions in London with their blood money.

MERS is horrendous.

Rachel says:
11 March 2020

I know people are now stealing the hospital hand gels from the dispensers and selling it on eBay.. NHS fraud teams are looking into it, especially sellers only listing one item. It’s disgusting- those with Life threatening illness need hand gel, such as cancer patients! I can’t get over the nastiness of human nature at times of crisis! Also Tesco has sold out of pasta and toilet roll!! What about people who can’t afford to be a doomsday prepper! Done selfish lot will have stockpiles of food and supplies whilst the less fortunate go without! Disgraceful behaviour. In it together?? Not likely!

Hi I tried to buy hand sanitizer and bought a 1000ml kleenex one and it was £20.
A week later and it was on sale for £50!! On ebay
Everything on ebay is 5 times the price it used to be with hand sanitizer. Its disgusting that instead of trying to hand out small 50p bottles to everyone ro try n help combat the virus ppl just want to be selfish and take advantage.