Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy and other major retailers have been accused of profiteering by placing “excessive markups” on face masks.
Mask Bros, a student organisation which sells masks at “fair” prices often half the price of major retailers, has accused them of price gouging.
According to Mask Bros, which has now sold over 500,000 masks, retailers that purchase major quantities of masks and have their own logistics networks pay around between 20p and 30p for each medical 3-ply standard mask.
Boots sells these for 70p per mask, while Lloyds Pharmacy sells them for £1 per mask, which equates to gross profit margins of around 70 per cent.
Average gross profit margins for Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy, according to Mask Bros, are 21 per cent and six per cent respectively.
Tesco and Co-op were also implicated for selling non-medical disposable face masks for 65p and 75p per unit respectively, compared to Mask Bros’ 25p per mask.
“We add a small margin to maintain our website, cover the cost of packing materials, pay for inspections, compensate our key workers, and scale to offer more products at lower prices,” Mask Bros which sells the same masks for 50p said.
“But in general, we try to stay fair. And that’s reflected in our prices.
Both companies have been contacted for comment but neither had responded at the time of writing.
It comes amid ongoing calls for retailers and marketplaces like Ebay and Amazon to stamp out price gouging in their stores to ensure everyone has access to PPE.
Consumer watchdog Which? head of consumer protection Sue Davies said: “Regulators must be empowered to take swift action to ensure this practice is stamped out. It is imperative we learn from this experience and ensure people are protected and that the prices of essential items stay reasonable during crises, both now and in the future.”