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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland trader slams £10 sanitiser rip-off claims

Inflated price down to manufacturers, insists retailer

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Balram Sharma

Balram Sharma

Balram Sharma

A Northern Ireland hardware retailer has denied profiteering from coronavirus by flogging tiny hand-sanitiser bottles for a £10 a pop.

Strabane market trader Balram Sharma received a backlash online after pictures emerged of hand-sanitiser being sold at inflated prices out of a van bearing the company logo of local hardware store Trades Man N.I.

But he has blamed manufacturers' and wholesalers' prices, saying: "We could not control the prices."

Facebook user Matthew Beaumont posted a picture with 135ml bottles of sanitiser priced at £10 and 450ml bottles priced at £20, adding: "Repeat after me. A global health scare is NOT the time to ripoff the most vulnerable in society. "

Fellow Facebook user Hannah Quinn added: "The height of profiteering and ripping people off , taking advantage of an incredibly challenging time where money is an issue for so many people right now. Bad bad call, but it's all happening online too. "

Despite the angry response Mr Sharma denied he was doing anything wrong and blamed wholesalers for hiking their prices.

Speaking to Sunday Life he claimed the supplier had charged £14.50 per 450ml and he had travelled a significant distance to go and collect the stock, meaning he was not profiteering.

He also says he plans to donate hand sanitiser to Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry pending safety clearance.

He said: "Due to the recent misleading and inaccurate information posted on social media regarding TradesMan NI, I felt obligated to issue a response.

"Due to daily manufacturing price increases, on one product in the entire store, we could not control the price that we sold hand sanitisers at.

"It's the manufactures inflating these prices, not us. I was charged £14.50 per 450ml and had to travel very far to get it. They probably cost us £15.50 including collection.

"There are many other retailers online and in the surrounding area who are selling hand sanitiser at the same prices, if not more than we are.

"We even had the police come down to the market stall to check everything was ok and check the sanitiser. The customers who bought it were happy as Larry.

"We got this product due to requests from loyal customers and they were warned that these were not going to be the typical sanitiser prices due to the shortages.

"We have done nothing wrong, we pay our tax and VAT and everything and still get criticised. I'm not going to bother with selling it anymore, it's not worth the hassle.

"I sympathise with everyone who has lost their jobs during this pandemic and that hospitals are unable to get hand sanitiser which I know is frustrating as I also have family members working in the hospitals.

"No one is aware that we got in adequate stock to donate over 100 bottles to Altnagelvin Area hospital to try and help in some small way at this difficult time. We're just waiting for the all clear to go ahead and donate them."

Belfast Telegraph