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Coronavirus profiteering: What to do if you see it happening in Surrey and Hampshire

3 minute read
Coronavirus profiteering: What to do if you see it happening in Surrey and Hampshire

Published by Grace Mcgachy at 3:50pm 25th March 2020. (Updated at 4:16pm 25th March 2020)

A new task force has been set up by the government to crack down on those who are looking to profit from the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Competition and Markets Authority have urged retailers to behave responsibly. 

There have been reports of everyday essentials like toilet roll, hand soap, and antibacterial hand gel being sold for vastly inflated prices both in shops and online. 

What is profiteering?

It is the act of taking advantage of a situation in order to make a profit, usually by charging high prices for things people need.

Eagle News spoke to Lee Ormundy with Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards about what the law says about increasing prices: 

"The current situation is that a trader can charge whatever they want for a particular product.

"It's up to the consumer to take their business elsewhere and punish the trader that way. 

"However, having said that I would urge anybody that has come across any examples of what could be described as profiteering to contact the Competition and Markets Authority.

"They have a COVID-19 taskforce and they will take enforcement action when they receive evidence that firms have breached competition or consumer law."

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As many shops have been forced to close because of the coronavirus outbreak residents may feel like that have to pay the high prices in order to get what they need. 

Lee advises that we shop around where possible: 

"People may feel they're in a trapped situation that they've got no choice.

"I would still recommend shopping around, looking on the internet."

Meanwhile, Amazon and eBay insist they're taking action to tackle rip-off sellers.

Which? has accused them of failing to do enough to address the huge mark-up on items like hand sanitizer, face masks and thermometers.

Surrey Police asks residents to be extra vigilant to fraud

We're also be urged to remain alert to scams relating to the coronavirus as reports come in from across the country. 

No reports have been made to Surrey Police so far but there have been more than 100 reports nationally to Action Fraud since the start of February. 

The majority of reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser and other products which have never arrived.

Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.

PC Bernadette Lawrie, Surrey Police financial abuse safeguarding officer said the advice to stay safe is simple:

"Think very carefully before you hand over your money or bank card and don’t give out your personal details unless you are sure who you are dealing with.

“We are working together across law enforcement, government and the private sector to combat this criminal activity and protect the public. If you think you have been a victim you can report to Action Fraud, but if you are elderly or vulnerable report directly to Surrey Police on 101 or online."