The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is lobbying for “emergency time-limited legislation” to tackle sellers profiteering from the coronavirus crisis.
Price gouging has been an unfortunate bi-product of the nationwide lockdown and initial panic buying, with prices of items like face masks and hand sanitiser skyrocketing across numerous platforms.
The CMA has struggled to effectively tackle the problem finding that the limited nature of competition law in the UK made it basically powerless to enforce action.
“Consumer and competition law are not really designed for emergencies,” CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said.
“Part of our role is to use everything we have but if there are gaps, to explain to the government what those gaps are. Ultimately though it’s for the government and parliament to decide.”
It has reportedly spoke to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to request new powers to properly fight the problem.
Between March 10 and April 19 the CMA received more than 21,000 complaints about price gouging, with the average price spikes ranging from 130 per cent to a whopping 367 per cent.
Last week the consumer watchdog Which? reported that it found similar antibacterial products on Amazon and Ebay listed up to 10 times the amount they would sell for in a supermarket.
Which? revealed that not only were 85% of Dettol items being sold for double the typical supermarket cost, but two in 10 (22%) were five times the typical price, and 8% were 10 times the price.
Despite calls from the CMA, one government official said instating new laws was “not something we are actively pursuing at the moment”.