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CMA launches Covid-19 taskforce to tackle overpricing

By Michele Maatouk

Date: Friday 20 Mar 2020

(Sharecast News) - The Competition and Markets has launched a Covid-19 taskforce to keep an eye on retailers who are overcharging for in-demand products such as hand sanitiser and loo roll during the virus outbreak.
"The outbreak of Covid-19 is an unprecedented and rapidly evolving challenge that has prompted many concerns that businesses might exploit the situation to take advantage of people, for example by charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about their products," it said.

The competition watchdog's taskforce will identify "harmful sales and pricing practices as they emerge" and warn companies suspected of exploiting current circumstances through unjustifiable prices or misleading claims. It has already contacted traders and platforms overcharging for hand sanitiser.

In addition, the taskforce will take enforcement action where there is evidence that firms may have breached competition or consumer protection law and failed to respond to warnings.

Among other things, the taskforce will also enable the CMA to advise the government on how to ensure competition law does not get in the way of legitimate measures to 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."

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