Care providers are being told to contact the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) if they have concerns about suppliers charging excessive amounts for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other vital resources.
The CMA has launched a COVID-19 taskforce to bring businesses that are “exploiting the situation and behaving irresponsibly” to account.
Care providers can write to the CMA by clicking here.
There has been numerous reports of suppliers charging excessive prices for facemasks, gloves and hand sanitizer in recent weeks, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Swindon-based home care provider First City Nursing and Care has started to create its own plastic face shields using a 3D printer after government supplies dwindled and its usual suppliers put their prices up.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve seen prices rocket up, with alcohol gel rising by 12 times and a similar increase for face masks. We felt as though we were being forced to the black market to obtain this critical equipment as new suppliers appeared on the market, but we were dubious over the quality and safety of the products,” said managing director Stephen Trowbridge.
Another care professional tweeted yesterday that Allegro Promotional Products, based in Leeds, had hiked the price of its facemasks up from 0.15p a unit to £1.11.
“Sourced a supply of facemasks from a reputable supplier at 0.15p/unit yesterday. This morning, I received this- £1.11/unit. Appalling behaviour to take advantage of this situation,” he said.
As the public health emergency worsens and its impact on the economy becomes more serious, the CMA said its taskforce will scrutinise market developments to identify harmful sales and pricing practices as they emerge; warn firms suspected of exploiting these exceptional circumstances – and people’s vulnerability – through unjustifiable prices or misleading claims; and take enforcement action if there is evidence that firms may have breached competition or consumer protection law and they fail to respond to warnings.
The taskforce will also equip the CMA to advise the Government on emergency legislation if there are negative impacts for people which cannot be addressed through existing powers; and enable it to advise the government on how to ensure competition law does not stand in the way of legitimate measures that protect public health and support the supply of essential goods and services.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “This is obviously a time when we all have to behave responsibly to protect our fellow citizens, and particularly those who are most vulnerable. We urge retailers to behave responsibly in the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“But if they do not, our taskforce is monitoring market developments to enable us to intervene as quickly as possible. We have a range of options at our disposal, from warnings to enforcement action to seeking emergency powers. We hope that such action will not be necessary, but we will do whatever is required to stop a small minority of businesses that may seek to exploit the present situation.”