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Help us put an end to price gouging

Exploitative sellers are profiting from the coronavirus crisis by hiking the prices of essential items. Enough is enough – it has to be stopped.

While the majority of us in the UK have rallied and supported each other during the COVID-19 crisis with amazing acts of generosity and kindness, others have looked to exploit the uncertainty.

Since the beginning of this epidemic, we’ve been keeping a close eye out for examples of profiteering – commonly known as ‘price gouging’ – by sellers seeking to take advantage of people in need of essential items that are currently in high demand.

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

You’ve sent us hundreds of cases covering everything from household essentials such as disinfectant sprays and hand sanitiser, to baby formula and paracetamol.

We even received reports of hair clippers and DIY equipment being sold at extortionate prices.

Unacceptable behaviour

Many of the examples you sent came from popular online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.

We’ve been calling on both of them to do more to tackle the issue since March but, worryingly, we’ve also come across plenty of bricks-and-mortar shops taking advantage of their customers too. 

Some of the most egregious examples include:

💷 One 500ml hand sanitiser gel for £56.98 on eBay

💷 One pack of 20 Dettol wipes for £16 from a seller on Amazon

💷 A 400ml bottle of disinfectant for £45.94 from OnBuy.com

💷 A local chemist selling a 100ml bottle of hand sanitiser gel for £25

We believe this is unacceptable behaviour by people seeking to take advantage of the incredibly difficult position many currently find themselves in – and it must be stopped.

Join our campaign against price gouging

Today we’re launching our new campaign calling on the government to introduce emergency legislation to stop price gouging of essential items during public crises now and in the future.

We want it to be illegal for individual sellers, both online and on the high street, to be able to profit on the products that people need most to stay safe and get through a crisis.

And we want online marketplaces to be held to account if they do not ensure compliance from people selling goods on their sites.

You’ve already helped us to put this on the government’s agenda, but now we need you to help us turn this into action.

Our simple tool can be used to submit any examples of price gouging that you find both online and in stores. We will share these directly with the Competition and Markets Authority to support their investigations, and show the Government why it’s so important to take swift action.

The more examples of unscrupulous sellers that we can gather, the louder our voice and the stronger our campaign will be.

Price gouging: how to spot it

So, make sure you spread the word. Share our tool with friends and family and keep reporting any coronavirus profiteering to us.

Got a story to share or come across an example of price gouging? Report it via our tool, then tell us in the comments.

Together, we can press home the need for swift action from the government to put an end to this unacceptable practice.

Comments

I tried to report yeast price gouging on ebay but this error message stops me submitting the report.
Please provide the correct information in the highlighted fields.
•Please enter a valid item number for a listing that has not ended.

All the information is there as the item number is automatically taken from the listing, so what is going on? I gave the reason as both ‘Other’ and ‘General Household Item’.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Allinson-s-yeast-Easy-Bake-One-Box/254581511571?hash=item3b463d9593:g:z6cAAOSwkqBepycT

This yeast normally costs £1 but the seller is asking for £20 plus £1.60 postage for something that would fit in a small envelope.

What amazes me is the fact people are actually paying these massively inflated prices AND leaving positive feedback.

Yeast Sold Prices for one greedy seller:
https://www.ebay.co.uk/b/Food-Drinks/14308/bn_1632677?rt=nc&LH_Complete=1&LH_Sold=1&_fss=1&_sadis=15&_sasl=lizzieskitsandtoys&_saslop=1&_sop=3&_stpos=KT229TJ&_udhi=&_udlo=

Sold Allinsons Yeast:
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Allisons-Active-Dry-Yeast-3-x-100g-Tins-Sealed-all-3-best-before-2021/202951890173?hash=item2f40e014fd:g:3uAAAOSw92Regyyk
£63 for 3 tins that would normally cost £3

And this one that takes some believing:
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Last-Uk-supplied-Allinson-Easy-Bake-Yeast-6-x-7g-per-box-bread-making-LAST/133362893017?hash=item1f0d0c40d9:g:R8wAAOSwel1eZmJA

Asked £39.99 for a £1 box of Allinson’s yeast. Thankfully unsold on that occasion but the seller has sold plenty more at inflated prices. Only one buyer has given negative feedback ‘Beware of this robbing seller. Profiting from Corona Virus’

But the really unbelievable is this one that got 23 bids pushing a £1 tin of yeast up to £57.90 + £3.10 P&P
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Active-dry-yeast-Allinsons/223966829052?hash=item34257699fc:g:8qwAAOSwuJpeiC1J

Or maybe not:
https://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/Food-Drink/14308/i.html?_from=R40&LH_Complete=1&_udlo=&_udhi=&_samilow=&_samihi=&_sadis=15&_stpos=KT229TJ&_sop=3&_dmd=1&_ipg=50&_nkw=yeast

I bought 3 x 500g of SAF Gold Instant Yeast for £5 per pack + £4.99 DPD courier just this morning.

More than I need, but I will be sharing it with friends.

If people are daft enough to pay ludicrous prices they only have themselves to blame.
When people refuse to be conned and ripped off by these greedy,bottom feeders, then they wouldn’t be able to ask the crazy prices.

Agree. But there are exceptions to that, for instance when someone absolutely requires the product. And due to panic buying it is in high demand/low on stock. So the seller has failed to regulate its sales and left with only economic action to now regulate the purchasing. That’s not the consumers fault!

Creating a panic is what does the damage. Who put the story around that loo rolls would suddenly disappear from the market? I expect some of the media had a hand in it. There was never any real shortage until people started clearing them off the shelves by the cart load. The usual retailers didn’t see that coming until it was too late, the supply system was failing to deliver stocks fast enough to replenish the shelves, and prices went through the roof on the internet. It was probably linked to the October 31st Brexit scare – which was not based on fact – that toilet tissue would be held up at the borders and there would be a shortage. The UK is actually self-sufficient in toilet tissue – manufacturers have adequate capacity [raw materials and production resources] and stock leverls and distribution facilities to maintain a regular supply to meet normal demand under stable conditions. Create a panic and that all counts for nothing and puts consumers at the mercy of rogues.

Another panic that was created was over hand-sanitiser. It was put about that people needed to use alcohol-based sanitiser gel because it would be more effective than soap and water. It isn’t. It has become commonplace at the entrances to doctors surgeries, hospitals, and various feeding stations where it would be impractical to provide running water and where the gel is a quick and convenient way of cleansing the hands on entering – it doesn’t take long for each person to use it, it dries quickly, and does not require hand towels or dryers to be provided. In a domestic situation where there are sinks and wash- basins with running water there is no advantage to be gained from using sanitiser gel in preference to soap which comes in both solid and liquid form – much cheaper too.

The toiletries industry has led everyone to believe that anti-bacterial handwash is a better cleanser than ordinary soap. It isn’t, and it can also give rise to environmental problems on disposal through the waste water system. This product has also been hard to obtain because of over-buying due to a false scare.

I cannot trust the media to tell the whole truth, but unfortunately I also find it difficult to believe everything the government tells us [and with good reason], so where are consumers to get truthful, objective information that they can trust? Even the experts bicker over these things and often have an axe to grind.

The story about loo roll disappearing seems to have started in New Zealand or Wuhan, depending on which source you choose to believe.

‘Australia has also suffered from panic buying of toilet paper despite plentiful domestic supply. A risk expert in the country explained it this way: “Stocking up on toilet paper is … a relatively cheap action, and people like to think that they are ‘doing something’ when they feel at risk.”

This is an example of “zero risk bias,” in which people prefer to try to eliminate one type of possibly superficial risk entirely rather than do something that would reduce their total risk by a greater amount. ‘

In 1973, U.S. consumers cleared store shelves of the rolls for a month based on little more than rumours, fears and a joke.

There’s also the theory that we’re programmed to hoard against potential shortages, in a similar way to squirrels.

Squirrels have to hoard because their winter food supply is highly seasonal. So far as I can tell, the use of loo roll is not affected by the seasons [except perhaps at Christmas time when shops are closed for three days]. I wonder what the difference is in society’s mind between ‘hoarding’ and maintaining sensible stock levels in the home.

Running out of an essential item, whether it’s cigarettes or toilet paper, is a fearful experience so people start to panic if it seems likely to happen. Exploiters are alert to when this syndrome will kick in and get ahead of it to collar the market. Is it greed or natural instinct to raise the price or ration supply?

The problem we have over toilet tissue is that the alternatives are unthinkable so it has a distress value that, on the scales, would exceed the price of gold. People who have ample storage space, or can afford to buy more than they need every week, can maintain sensible stock levels but unfortunately for many people that is impossible and they have to buy smaller packs at higher unit prices as they need them and be more economical in its use. The mere mention of a possible shortage causes anxiety. And a panic is self proliferating. The exploiters and the hoarders pounce – including many who already have more than enough.

It was predictable that there would be a run on loo rolls as soon as people started working from home – which was about a week before the lockdown – and would no longer be using their employer’s facilities.

Thankyou for this effort, I hope it works. I think this is what has been needed for some time, and am sorry nothing has been done until now as this may be something of a stable door, bolted horse syndrome, thus far into our crisis. However, “batter” late than never, so let’s get them. Last time I looked (some while ago now) Amazon was crammed full of stupid prices for everyday items and I mentioned the fact on here. Evidence should not be hard to find anywhere on the net. This, of course is the main outlet for these heartless people, since we can not physically buy these items elsewhere. Shops engaging in such practice need to be highlighted in the local press as well as nationally.
This campaign is welcome, but it has to have some action attached to it when evidence is submitted and, hopefully, retrospective evidence will count just as much as that which is currently being noticed. These people drained our shelves in the first place, so they are doubly guilty.

At present the price of a tin of Allinson’s yeast on the Tesco website is £1, as it was before the shortage. That does not mean that every branch has a stock.

Problem is rogue, heartless, scum sellers will buy these for a £1 and sell them on ebay at inflated prices.
ebay and Amazon have a lot to answer for endorsing these sellers ! I have complained many times to both ebay and Amazon. I’d like to think that they’ve taken some notice, ebay has to a degree however they still have a lot to answer for as some of these sellers are panicking in case they are left with a lot of stock and ebay are promoting them “don’t miss out on these”, mainly PPE and sanitizers.

Robin says:
29 April 2020

Being stranded in the UK whilst holding a return ticket to the Middle East with BA, I would appreciate some recognition that applying arbitrary ‘fare differences’ to maximise profits is a method of price gouging.

CMT says:
29 April 2020

It is very concerning to see the prices of PPE skyrocket especially as this puts extra financial pressure on the NHS & care agencies. In ealy March I bought a box of 100 Nitrole latex free gloves for £4.50 inc VAT yhey are now £9 inc VAT
….100% increase…..somewhere down the supply chain big profits are being made out of a national disaster….Italy is asking its citizens to wear masks but has legislated to make sure the price of a mask is no more that €0.5….we need such regulation here

Charles says:
29 April 2020

Insurance companies are also profiteering by insisting that annual premiums are paid now for e.g travel insurance at a time when one can’t travel anywhere, let alone abroad. Saga wouldn’t contemplate allowing me to pay now but delaying the start date by two months.

I Have Heard Mothers Of New Babies Are Paying Vast Increases For Baby Formula, Hopefully, After The Virus The Stores Who Charged These Prices Will Find Customers Going Elsewhere For Baby Milk.

Catherine Reece says:
29 April 2020

Profiteering out of people’s misery will never go away. The pound and dollar signs are so strong and greed will always come top dog.

Ros says:
29 April 2020

Several people report that the buyers’ comments all seem positive. Another aspect of online shopping companies which needs amendment.

I buy Nescafe Skinny Latte every week in Morrisons. . It has been on offer at £1.50 per box. A few weeks ago I noticed that it was priced at £2 and I purchased a packet. The week after I went to but a packet and noted that Morrisons were now pricing it at £3! I refuse to pay that price as Sainsburys were selling it at £1.50
When I checked online. I decided to phone and have it out with the manager. During my call she tried everything to put me off. I told her that Morrisons were blatantly profiteering during a crisis and should be ashamed. This item has NEVER been £3.
She said she would contact head office when I told her I was going on the Daily Mail Website to comment on this disgraceful profiteering. I went in the next week, and low and behold the ticket stated reduction from £2 to £1.50!! Result!

They had obviously listened to my complaint and did the right thing. I should not have had to complain. We are in very hard and difficult times and stores are bleeding the public and making things harder.

Iceland have increased a pack of 4 Belgian Biscuits from £1 just 4 weeks ago up to 1.25, then £1.50, and last week to £1.75! I am wondering what they’ll be this week?

I was very happy with my little battle with Morrisons. It made me feel good for a few minutes. Now we MUST stop these Supermarkets and others from taking advantage during this unpredictable time when most have a lot less money.

Gavin Parker says:
29 April 2020

Don’t let a short memory let the companies who are carrying out the price hiking get away with it ! There are always alternatives and whilst you may have to compromise on your usual purchase, the alternative is that you will encourage more of this GREED and it is your money that you are wasting!

Colin says:
29 April 2020

This seems to be a problem across the supermarkets many items having a price creep up of 05p-50p or more not good enough

Margaret Hope says:
29 April 2020

My local Tesco Express has upped all is prices, 80p for 1 banana!

Samantha Valentine says:
29 April 2020

I’m sick to death of seeing big and small businesses taking advantage of a pandemic to make a profit, these people should be prosecuted.

I hope all the profiteers will be remembered and shunned when business returns to normal. Meanwhile, they should all be named and shamed.

Ron says:
29 April 2020

Prices have risen everywhere to enable companies to take advantage of the situation. This also includes the Water Companies who are making a fortune as we have to wash our hands more often. The Water Companies should be made to reduce the prices they charge.

Why is this being allowed by the law? I thought there was an offence of “Profiteering” or was this only applied in the war.
Maybe this should come back in force if its been mothballed.
When people are charging ridiculous amounts for hand sanitizer how are people supposed to protect themselves?
The people and companies who are Profiteering should be named and shamed if they are not going to be dealt with by the law.

Fiona – Soap and hot water are a perfectly effective protection and cleanser. There is no need to use a special handsanitiser.

I am not aware of any recommendation for using hot water for regular hand washing, John, and this could result in skin damage and conditions such as eczema or dermatitis, partly as a result of removal of natural oils. It’s also inadvisable to use washing-up liquid to wash hands, even if it is handy, because it contains powerful detergents. To minimise skin damage it’s best to rinse hands thoroughly to remove soap and dry them.

I really don’t understand why anyone is using hand sanitiser in the home where soap and water are available.

Now that we have warmer weather and the water in the cold tap is closer to room temperature then cold water is less uncomfortable than it was a few weeks ago. I agree that hot water at full boiler temperature can damage the skin if used frequently. I am used to mixer taps where the valve can be turned to provide warm water which is both comfortable and effective.

Karen says:
29 April 2020

I have noticed really raised prices in my local Tesco supermarket 6 pack of my dogs food raised by 0.85p per pack
Needless to say I will not patronize this shop again after being loyal for 30 years dusgusting

Joe says:
29 April 2020

The human greed that led to the outbreak is still alive and well…what joy!