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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.

Ralph Gerrard says:
10 June 2020

Would be good if Which could report on pre pandemic pricing in order that individuals could determine if price gouging is happening and by what amount.
A comparison with other European countries would also help.

At the end of the day, the U.K government has handled this situation appallingly in the words of the late great Terry Thomas they have been a total shower, added to that a Labour opposition that is more aligned to scoring political points than actually helping out and we have a political stew where nobody comes out smelling of roses.

John Mansbridge says:
10 June 2020

If their performance during the COVID crisis so far is anything to go by, the Government will do absolutely nothing about this.
They will tell us they’ll do something, but they’ll do nothing.
They are incompetent.

Sorry John I glanced across that & read incontinent.
Must e all that verbal diarrhoea they spout every day

Arthur says:
10 June 2020

In wartime this was known a ‘profiterring’ & there were specific laws with stiff penalties for those caught doing it – what is the difference now? The Government need to stiffen their overall stance when it comes to laws to prevent profiteering & other breaches of the regulations

What the difference is Arthur, is a Government that is running around like a headless chicken

E Newson says:
10 June 2020

Let’s make the R above “1” for this particular campaign, yea.

Ernie says:
10 June 2020

Surprisingly enough I was talking to an NHS colleague today about these price increases with our Suppliers and the volume of them who have increased prices above inflation and despite having on inflation agreements in place !! Shocking abuse of Public money

The three examples of comments were blatantly anti-government. I thought the objective of this campaign was to identify the companies who are price-gouging, rather than make a very biased political statement. Does this mean Which has ceased to be impartial, in which case I’ll have to consider terminating my subscription of 40 years. There’s plenty of political media already, without Which providing more by deception. I’m surprised and disappointed.

Hi Robin – If you are referring to the comments on the Which? Conversation homepage, these are just recent comments by contributors to discussions. I have just seen your comment there.

It would not make sense for Which? to adopt a political approach because that would alienate many who have strong views. Which? are calling on the government to take action and, we are told, working with the CMA to tackle price gouging.

Some websites ban discussion of politics, religion and socks. There is no such ban on Which? Conversation, so we do get some views that may alienate others. If you think that others would find a comment offensive or unacceptable for other reasons you can always click on ‘Report’.

Sorry Robin I’m keeping mine, sort of attached to it after 50 years. I keep thinking of giving up, then it slips my mind. What hasn’t slipped my mind whilst incarcerated at home is realising what are appallingly pathetic attempts by the Government to to make any decisions

At the beginning of lockdown, Dentists gave their stock of PPE to the NHS. Now that they are allowed to restart business, they find that the cost of PPE has gone up, I think I heard said, five fold! That is price gouging!!!

Yes & they were told Friday they could reopen on Monday. Typical of total lack of Government Planning & Leadership

I cannot see how the government’s decision to allow dental practices to reopen on Monday 15 June – provided they can do so safely – is “a total lack of government planning & leadership”. Should the government have said “we won’t let dentists operate again until 15 August so as to give every one of them a chance to get ready”? Not every practice will have given away their PPE and each one will make their own risk assessment of how and when to reopen.

The government is bound to attract a lot of criticism for the way certain aspects of the crisis have been handled but overall I think they have done a reasonable job in the exceptional circumstances.

Many seem to view every event that requires governmental action in a negative way – how can we find fault? Just as when politicians are interviewed or on that inquisition “Question Time” that I cannot be bothered to watch. Is it in our nature? Acknowledging positive action would be nice occasionally but not newsworthy, I presume. I do detect the same approach in some of Which?’s press releases but I may be alone here. I would like to see more constructive contributions.

Maybe we could have one Convo where only positive constructive contributions are allowed, just to see what is possible. 🙂 It would require editorial assistance from the moderators perhaps. I hesitate to mention “access to cash – the sequel” but working as a group to propose effective ways forward might be socially useful, however maybe too much for some?

So you’re proposing a topic in which only praise and positive comments would be allowed? About the way the government works? Might be a good idea. Seems to work in places—like North Korea.

I put the tongue in cheek emoji in, as advised by wavechange.
No, I was not suggesting we only praise the government. Nowhere did I say that, and this reinforces the way some Convos go.

I suggested we might have a Convo on a specific topic that needs solution. Contributors work together to suggest solutions rather than moaning about what might have been done before. I suggested Access to Cash as a topic that requires workable solutions, it could be how we get an effective appliance recall system, it could be how we might tackle dangerous appliances reaching consumers……..

It is not about ”praise or positive comment” but active and constructive contributions to move a topic forwards. I realise this may be an alien idea for some.

I suggest linking my comment to North Korea implies you would not support such a proposal, although the comparison seems rather extreme. Maybe no one else will either. It would be good to have more constructive conversations that work towards the greater benefit of consumers.

Perhaps the negative response to my comment well illustrates the point I was trying to convey.

malcolm r says: Today 11:06

No, I was not suggesting we only praise the government. Nowhere did I say that, and this reinforces the way some Convos go.

Sorry. I must have drawn the wrong conclusion when you said

“Many seem to view every event that requires governmental action in a negative way – how can we find fault? Acknowledging positive action would be nice occasionally but not newsworthy, I presume. I do detect the same approach in some of Which?’s press releases. Maybe we could have one Convo where only positive constructive contributions are allowed, just to see what is possible. 🙂 It would require editorial assistance from the moderators perhaps.”

You did draw he wrong conclusion. The gist of my comment was to get a more constructive and balanced approach. I get tired of those who just moan with putting something positive forward. It was simply a lead up to suggesting we could attempt more constructive discussions on particular topics with the objective of finding a way forward. I gave some possible examples. However, many may not see this as the purpose of Convos.

“Without putting something positive forward” is what I meant. I must keep a closer eye on my automatic word inserter. Or turn it off. I’d rather make my own mistakes. 🙂

Well, I agree with you when you say I get tired of those who just moan without putting something positive forward. Negativism can be depressing.

David Pritchard says:
10 June 2020

This type of rip off is absolutely abhorrent and shameful. The customers should take note of these sellers and when this pandemic is over, put them out of business by boycotting them. This happened when there was petrol rationing happened a few years ago, in my area alone 12 petrol stations closed down. They need to be named and shamed.

“Price gouging” has been obvious for some time now. The government could have taken action as soon as it became apparent, but apparently didn’t have the nouse or willpower to do anything.
I would forgive them a lot if they would just show some sign of active leadership.

Bring back Maggie!

Joyce Justice says:
10 June 2020

I brought Johnson’s baby cotton buds from Amazon as I was in isolation and could not get out to buy them. Without realising it there was only 100 cotton buds (I was not aware that Johnson’s sold them in a 100 cotton buds) the usual quantity I buy is 200 cotton buds from my local pharmacy. I contacted the seller saying he was taking advantage of the coronavirus with the price he was charging for only 100 Johnson’s cotton buds, which was double the price of Johnson’s for 200 cotton buds. After I made contact with the seller my neighbour went to our local pharmacy and brought me 200 Johnson’s cotton buds for half the price of the price if 100 the seller on Amazon was selling them for. I contacted the seller about this and he responded by saying the pharmacy was selling old stock that simply was not true and I told him. I reported this seller to Amazon but nothing was done about it

ineffable disgrace they should be treated as criminals

Time to criminalize dose involves.

And4zej says:
11 June 2020

Should have happened as soon as lockdown introduced .hoarding or selling essential goods at inflated prices should incur substantial prices and possible prison sentences

Alan Humble says:
11 June 2020

Name and shame those Price Gouging.

Once again, we see the Rich, capitalizing on the Misery of the Poor!

Dorothy Ergin says:
11 June 2020

Yes typical in this country, this government lagging behind as usual. These capitalists always making money out of the poor and needy, as if they have not got enough problems as it is. Plus people stockpiling and then selling items at inflatable prices, this should also be stopped.

Yes, this government/country lagging behind as usual. Capitalists exploiting the poor again. Some people stockpiling and then selling items at inflated prices to make money… this also should be looked at, especially on websites. Where are all these masks to be found I wonder???

This scandal should have been addressed by the Government at the very start. I think we should start a name and shame list of companies. The Government should now regularly address this in the daily Coronavirus updates to inform people and let these companies know it will not be tolerated by sending letters out to them.

Sadly I got stung very early on by these rogue traders.But needed the things, so went ahead paying outrageous prices.

If you find these massively inflated prices, it’s time to stop & think!
If it’s online do you know the seller is genuine? The medium is ripe for scams, fake or non existent goods.
Think about ‘need’ – don’t get panicked by Government nuances & lack of clarity, and/or Media hype.
Do you ‘need’ a mask? if you are not using public transport or into crowded places then no.
You can make a simple one that is just as effective, from stuff in your home – cost a bit of time.
Sanitiser? over hyped, much of the stuff is not up to standard, frequent handwashing with soap & hot water is just as effective.
Think and be responsible for your ow safety! Stay Safe!