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Coronavirus: Profiteering Northern Ireland retailers warned they face action

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Retailers in Northern Ireland have been told to stop exploiting the coronavirus pandemic for profit or face sanction

Retailers in Northern Ireland have been told to stop exploiting the coronavirus pandemic for profit or face sanction

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Retailers in Northern Ireland have been told to stop exploiting the coronavirus pandemic for profit or face sanction

Retailers in Northern Ireland have been told to stop exploiting the coronavirus pandemic for profit or face sanction.

It follows a series of complaints from consumers on inflated prices for basic household goods.

Customers have reported seeing bottles of hand sanitiser being sold for £13.50, eight kitchen rolls for £15, individual toilet rolls being sold from a multi-pack, liquid paracetamol increasing from £3.69 to £7.49 and meat packs more than doubling in price.

The Trading Standards Service said it has already issued enforcement notices to traders who are profiteering as well as monitoring online shopping sites, social media 'buy and sell' pages and online marketplaces.

In a joint statement Trading Standards and The Consumer Council told retailers to stop profiteering or face action.

Damien Doherty, chief inspector of Trading Standards NI, said they had received a high volume of reports of price gouging. Price gouging or profiteering is the practice of increasing the price of goods or services unreasonably.

He said: "Like most people, my Consumer Council colleagues and I are concerned by the behaviour of a small number of businesses at this time.

"The vast majority of businesses have responded responsibly and demonstrated all that is good about business in Northern Ireland.

However, there is a minority engaged in profiteering.

"Those inflating prices to profit off the backs of their communities are adding to their distress and may be severely damaging their reputation.

"Consumers in Northern Ireland are likely to remember those businesses who attempted to profiteer and may well vote with their wallets once this crisis ends."

John French, chief executive of the Consumer Council, said: "We are aware it is only a very small number of sellers who are unfairly inflating their prices.

"The Consumer Council acknowledges that the majority of traders are not doing this and it is important to celebrate the good work retailers are doing to keep the supply chain going under such challenging circumstances.

"However, we have seen evidence that price gouging is taking place and we are calling on retailers to ensure they are giving consumers a fair price."

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a task force to crack down on businesses that may be engaging in price gouging and to consider whether there have been any legal breaches. CMA urged consumers to report business that are behaving unfairly by visiting www.coronavirus-business- complaint.service.gov.uk.

Belfast Telegraph