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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.

Comments

I have noticed this when an old lady went into sainsbury to buy her butter and the price went up by £1.20 pence. So I asked my local politician about this and his comment was so stupid I took no notice of it.
His excuse was because these stores where hiring extra staff they’re likely to up their prices to pay for their new staff members.

G P Harris says:
16 April 2020

My mate searched for a couple of wooden posts, 8 foot long, 4″ x 4″ section. Amazon quoted him £50.00 each. He bought them from a local builders merchant for £9.50 each!!

sheila says:
16 April 2020

Its not only marketplace who are profiting from the outbreak. Signed up for the two months free Daily Mirror, having to choose between 5 days or seven days, and give bank details for when the two months were up only to find the Microsoft store have taken £6.99 already. I have tried to get a refund but the system is such that it is very difficult to penetrate the actual refund procedure so have cancelled with bank, deleted my card details so that no further payments can be taken. Why are they allowed to take money from a so called free newspaper.

The only way to deal with these present opportunistic bad selling practices is to only buy what you really need and not what you can manage without for a few more weeks. I hope that Which? and other consumer groups will pursue this malpractice with the relevant regulatory governmental bodies when this pandemic finally subsides and life returns to normal again, as indeed it will.

During World War II everyone was encouraged to ‘Make Do And Mend’; the difference between then and now is, we can predict the present crisis will end soon and things will eventually return back to normal again when it’s over and these miscreant marketeers will reach their deserved come-uppance.

Panic buying is, to some extent, responsible for shortages. It is a normal human reaction to the uncertainty of not knowing the long term effects of Covid-19 and our cultural deep seated desire to remain as independent as possible is being tested. It has also unearthed an underlying latent altruism in people that they never knew existed who are forming volunteer groups to help those in need. Neighbours are also offering help when family and friends are absent through distance and various other reasons.

Welcome this help with open arms and enjoy the great interest and pleasure it brings to all parties involved, both now and when this time of hardship has finally lost its stranglehold on everyone affected by it.

A friend responded to the request for volunteers and is disappointed that he has not yet had the opportunity to help.

I was going to cut the grass for both my neighbours, who are locked down many miles from home. Another neighbour beat me to it with one and the other neighbour had arranged for a contractor to do the job. The best I have achieved is to share some fresh food with a friend to cope with shortages.

I have not bought any toilet rolls because I stocked up in late November or early December when they were cheap. I have not attempted to buy hand sanitiser because I have ‘disposable’ gloves, which can be washed and reused. I confess to have filled my kitchen cupboards with non-perishable goods before Christmas in case there were temporary delays in supply as a result of Brexit.

I do agree about altruism, Beryl, and hope that this continues long after Convid-19 has been consigned to history.

Wavechange I wish your altruistic friend lived near here!

Sainsburys had run out of fresh eggs on Tuesday and as I was lucky enough to receive an Ocado delivery last week I had more than I needed so was able to pass some on to neighbours, a retired couple who were in short supply. The feedback received was very rewarding.

I wish I could let you have some of my eggs, Beryl. 🥚🥚🥚 I had my last salad today and it’s another ten days before I can make anything approaching a proper salad. There is a local farm that usually has eggs in a box on the road, together with an honesty box. I have noticed that there were no eggs last time I walked that way.

We meet up (at a respectful distance) most days and had I been organised I could have had some freshly picked rhubarb and passed on some mushrooms. We are trying to stagger the timing of our orders and check with each other to see if anything is urgently needed. Among the gifts exchanged was a tin of dried baking yeast, courtesy of my friend’s neighbour. Not a bad exchange for a bag of oranges and a box of my home-made stem ginger cookies.

Thanks for the virtual eggs Wavechange, at least I don’t need to worry about ‘Best Before Date’. I was able to get some dried yeast before things worsened but as I have a jar of crystallised ginger in the cupboard, can you divulge your home made stem ginger cookie recipe?

If you are desperate for some nutritious salad leaves you may be interested in the following: treehugger.com – Please eat the dandelions; Edible garden weeds. Caution: Only eat ones from your own garden and wash well before eating raw!.

Alternatively you could try a local online fresh veg delivery service?

These ones were based on a Waitrose recipe: https://www.waitrose.com/home/recipes/recipe_directory/g/ginger-spiced-crunchbiscuits.html

I add at least half a packet of Whitworth’s Fiery Crystallised Stem Ginger and use one rather than three tablespoons of dried ginger. I’m using Waitrose stem ginger in syrup, but sometimes use other brands such as Opies.

I am investigating local sources of fresh fruit & veg. I did order online but my fruit & veg contained no fruit.

Ethnie says:
16 April 2020

Mine seems petty but I use Pagan perfume & it was sold out where I usually get it so went to Amazon. At first it was £4.99 for a tiny bottle but I put repeat monthly till I saw it had become more expensive now it’s almost £8 for the same since the CV19… Its just so wrong very wrong! I know it’s only perfume but I’m one of the AT RISK already self isolating in my 5th week & I’ve noticed all the popular perfumes have gone up in price!?!

Saw the article on Price Gouging. Just received my Amazon / yourparceluk for two sachets of 75% Hand Wash Gel. I was mentally panicking when lock-down and stock-piling was initiated and yes, I did not exercise due diligence.
The Hand Wash Gel, made in China is actually priced at £130 per litre (£6.50 per 50ml) sachet !!
I have instigated Amazon’s Returns Policy …. will let you know how I get on.

Saw the Price Gouging article and had just received my Amazon / yourparceluk order for Hand Wash 75% Gel. Didn’t realise the price of the stuff at the time but your article focused my attention. Two 50ml Sachets of Hand Gel works out at £130 per Litre !

I am instigating the Amazon Returns Policy – will let you know how I get on …

My friend is thinking of signing up to Alibaba in order to sell their stocked-up sanitary products at stupid prices, I don’t know if the ordinary citizens went short but clearly the Chinese Communist party has no objection to price-gouging either.

Has anyone else noticed Morrisons charging £35 for a similar “foodbox” to the one the Government are delivering to (at least some of!) the “vulnerable”, while having next to no normal delivery slots available to the same group? Not to mention them and some other supermarkets also only having the more expensive slots available to the “at risk” – fish in a barrel?

It may be morally wrong to inflate prices when something like this happens but supply and demand if how consumerism works.
Price of oil usually goes up as the demand for fuel increases but Which don’t get on their high horse about that!

Scottie – But some of the price inflation is not due to market forces but to opportunism [sometimes manipulated through misinformation], or plain greed. Changing the price of loo rolls from one day to the next when there has been no fundamental change in stock availability or manufacturing capacity was a form of exploitation of behavioural psychology. The hand sanitiser shortage was fabricated on the back of scare stories and falsehoods that gave racketeers the chance to take advantage of suggestible consumers fed drivel by the media.

Joan Eccles says:
16 April 2020

At the start of lock down the local chemist was selling hand antibacterial wash for £3.00 a bottle and limiting it to 2 bottle (normally not higher than £1.00) – the product was a cheap chemist own brand – what annoyed me most was that I use this chemist as it is a small independant and also try to buy something when I collect my prescription – so much for trying to support local businesses.

Joan – It is possible that some of the wholesalers are responsible for the price inflation. They could be trying to take commercial advantage of a surge in demand by raising their prices to the retailers. By the time the shopkeeper puts on his little bit the price hike is a whopper.

Scottie, their are also people who are either unable or unwilling to differentiate between their wants and needs and during hard times unscrupulous marketeers will take advantage of this.

In a relatively developed and free wealthy society these capitalistic companies supply and demand depends upon well planned psychological ploys through various advertising means to convince consumers to buy either something they don’t need or that they can supply it cheaper than anyone else.

However, during hard times when people are forced to accept their needs are often greater than their wants, they are more inclined to panic buy essential commodities, thereby creating shortages. This in turn provides an opportunity for these unscrupulous marketeers to cash in on consumers often unfounded fears, a situation which to all intents and purposes is wholly avoidable.

Before this Cov-19 I was able to purchase ink for my HP printer for around £25 for a combo pack( black and colour) on eBay now selling at £30 and above for just one Cartridge. Also individuals auction on the cartridges. It is terrible that people should be exploited at this time when some of us do not even know where our next penny will be coming from.

Liz Douglas says:
16 April 2020

It’s true eBay does have a reporting system but it doesn’t work – Their system is drop down menu but when you click ‘Submit’ it requests the item number but has no place to give one. I reported one seller from Scotland via live chat explained I’d made an order but understood the seller was on holiday. I contacted the seller on the return date was told he’s not fulfilling eBay orders to concentrate on his web orders. I told live chat I’d checked his auctions and he’d changed the date of his return from holiday. I found his website where he had increased his minimum purchase to £95 The item I’d tried to purchase was 2k Organic golden granulated sugar on eBay it was £8+ excluding postage. On his website it was £4+ exclusive of postage – The operator said that they would report it but refused to discuss the issue of why the system wouldn’t let me report it but said they were working hard to stop price gouging. I checked back a few days later the seller had changed his return from holiday date again and his auction was live

Marie says:
16 April 2020

I found e bay charging £30 for 3 small M&S hand gels which I believe cost me roughly £3-£4 a bottle
I find it dispicable that they that they could do this to anyone under our present circumstances.

Andrew Pestell says:
16 April 2020

See Virgin Media have been hiking broadband prices at a time most people are loathe to switch for fear of losing their internet connection for any period of time as many need it to work from home and earn a living.

Linda Hopkins says:
16 April 2020

Just found a 250g jar of Bovril on amazon for £10.77, same item on sale at Sainsburys for £3.50.

Andrew Collins says:
17 April 2020

What’s the difference between price gouging and those algorithm based pricing models used by airlines that trebles the price just when you want to travel? Yes I do mean Ryanair!

Greg Lewis-Brown says:
17 April 2020

Bread Flour mix on Amazon. £12 for 2.5 kilo’s