CMA calls for new powers to curb profiteering
The UK competition watchdog has asked the government to consider bringing in emergency powers to help it successfully tackle profiteering during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Competition and Markets Authority has told the government that “emergency, time-limited legislation” would enable it to pursue retailers that are bumping up prices.
The Financial Times said that chief executive Andrea Coscelli had told the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: “Consumer and competition law are not really designed for emergencies.
“Part of our role is to use everything we have, but if there are gaps, to explain to the government what those gaps are. Ultimately though it’s for the government and parliament to decide.”
The CMA has received 21,000 complaints between 10 March and 19 April relating to coronavirus. The average price hike across all reports was 130%, while the average price of hand sanitiser spiked 367%.
The BBC said that Trading Standards had also received a “high volume” of complaints about price gouging during the pandemic.
In a statement, the CMA said: “Our Covid-19 taskforce continues to scrutinise reports of potentially harmful sales practices, including inflated price rises. The vast majority of businesses are doing the right thing, but where there is evidence that firms may have broken the law, we’ll be using our existing powers to the maximum possible extent.
“We’ve already written to hundreds of business asking them to explain their inflated prices, and what we find out will help us decide whether and where we can take further action.
“Along with our existing powers, we have also advised the government on options for emergency, time-limited legislation that could give a better chance of dealing with this type of problem.”