Government exploring “wartime” measures to prevent profiteering on online platforms

New “wartime” measures could be brought in by the government to prevent sellers profiteering from essential items in high demand during the UK’s lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke out against profiteering “at a critical time and a national emergency” during his daily coronavirus speech at Number 10 yesterday.

This comes after consumer watchdog Which? slammed Ebay and Amazon for failing to do enough to tackle price gouging on their platforms, stating it had found overpricing of cleaning products, thermometers, baby formula and tampons sometimes around 10 times the usual price.

To tackle this, Johnson said the government was “looking at the legislative framework to see what may be necessary to do to prevent profiteering, just as happened in wartime many many years ago”.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which already has powers to prevent price gouging, welcomed the announcement, stating “the most rapid and effective route could be legislation that enables the Secretary of State to address price gouging”.

READ MORE: Ebay imposes “Emergency Listing Restrictions” to tackle price gougers

In response, Ebay UK’s vice president Rob Hattrell added: “We welcome Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s stance against profiteering mentioned in this evening’s press conference, and we share his zero tolerance for this deplorable behaviour.

“We are continuing to take increasingly aggressive measures to eliminate price gouging from our platform, like introducing on Monday new items to our list of heavily restricted products  (including toilet roll, baby formula and nappies). Additionally, in the last twelve hours we have also rolled out a new price gouging reporting functionality, enabling people to report instances of unreasonably priced items in real time.

“Our monitoring and enforcement team will then take appropriate action against the seller, which can mean account suspension and supporting government authorities with their investigations against non-compliant sellers.

“We simply will not stand for people using eBay to try and exploit others and are continuing to work around the clock to eliminate it from our site.”

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