These are the coronavirus price cons causing complaints in Lancashire

Trading standards teams in Lancashire have received more than a dozen complaints about businesses allegedly trying to profiteer from the coronavirus crisis.

Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 12:15 pm

Reports have included the price of baby milk being doubled at a shop in Leyland, hand sanitiser selling at an outlet in Ormskirk for five times the usual price and meat doubling in price in East Lancashire.

Meanwhile, a pharmacist in Poulton-le-Fylde complained of a price hike of over 200 percent on his usual supply of protective face masks.

Suppliers and retailers are being warned not to seek to profit from the current situation, which has seen shortages of certain products after panic buying in some supermarkets.

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Lancashire County Council is urging retailers to act responsibly and says that its trading standards department is working with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to monitor the situation - and take action to protect the interests of consumers.

County Cllr Albert Atkinson, cabinet member for technical services, rural affairs and waste management, said 13 complaints had been received about traders in the county increasing their food prices.

"In general, there seems to be no good reason for this, other than taking an opportunity to profit from an emergency situation.

"This is very disappointing and we are working closely with the CMA to tackle the issue. We will use our powers to take enforcement action if needed.

"We're urging people to shop with retailers who charge fair market prices and don't seek to profiteer.

"Whilst the situation is continuing and consumers may believe goods are in short supply, I reiterate the national message that people should make sensible purchases and not panic-buy.

"This will ensure that the food supply chain is maintained and the right levels of goods are available in our shops across Lancashire," County Cllr Atkinson said.

Some of the personal protective goods supplied have even been found to be faulty and totally ineffective - while others are vastly overpriced.

Suppliers are free to set reasonable prices for the goods they sell - but charging excessive amounts or making misleading claims about the effectiveness of protective equipment could constitute an 'aggressive practice' under consumer protection regulations.

That might be by using undue influence to cause shoppers to make purchasing decisions that they would not otherwise have made - specifically, by exploiting circumstances that may affect consumer judgement, such as fears around the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Such tactics are punishable by an unlimited fine and up to two years' imprisonment.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, said: “We urge retailers to behave responsibly throughout the coronavirus outbreak and not to make misleading claims or charge vastly inflated prices.

"We also remind members of the public that these obligations may apply to them too if they resell goods, for example on online marketplaces.”

Consumers with complaints about misleading practices and scams can report them to Lancashire Trading Standards via the Citizen's Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133

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