THERE have been more than 60 complaints of price gouging by retailers across Northern Ireland since lockdown began, Sunday Life can reveal.
The hiking of the cost of products was flagged by members of the public with the Trading Standards Service (TSS).
Since movement restrictions came into force in the last week of March, 68 instances of potential profiteering were made known to the TSS.
The TSS told this newspaper they have now opened seven investigations as a result which are ongoing at the time of going to press.
It has also shared the information with the Covid-19 taskforce of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is monitoring the price of goods across the UK during the pandemic.
When panicky shoppers decided to start piling up the likes of toilet rolls, rice and flour, there were reports of some shops jacking up the price of these products.
There were anecdotal reports of individual toilet rolls being sold for £1 and bottles of hand sanitiser going for the price of a bottle of whiskey.
But those who feel they have been taken for a ride when asked to fork out over the odds shouldn't get their hopes up.
The consumer advice from the government warns that a business can charge what it likes for any product "as long as the price is made known to consumers beforehand".
It adds: "However, the Competition and Markets Authority wants to make sure that businesses do not exploit the current health emergency to take advantage of consumers, and is advising consumers to report instances of price gouging to them." Although price controls were ditched in the UK over 40 years ago, there are fair trading laws.
Late last month, the chief inspector of the TSS in Northern Ireland, Damien Doherty, said the body had issued some enforcement notices to retailers.
"Those inflating prices to profit off the backs of their communities are adding to their distress and may be severely damaging their reputation," he said. Mr Doherty added the CMA had received more than 21,000 complaints about pricing across the UK since the start of lockdown and issued 250 enforcement notices.