POLITICS
18/03/2020 14:25 GMT

MP Calls For Crackdown On 'Predatory' Black Marketeers Profiting From Coronavirus

Boris Johnson urged to tackle "vicious and uncaring" people clearing essential shop stocks and selling on products at vastly inflated prices.

See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.

Boris Johnson has been urged by a Tory MP to ban “predatory, vicious and uncaring” black market sellers profiting from the coronavirus crisis.

Alexander Stafford said his constituents in Rother Valley, South Yorkshire, had told him that black marketeers were clearing shop stocks and then attempting to sell the goods online for vastly inflated prices.

The coronavirus crisis so far has seen mass panic buying around the world as countries go into lockdown and Stafford said he has seen evidence of deliberate profiteering.

This included “stories of mothers unable to find powdered milk for their new-borns, the elderly unable to find packs of toilet roll, the vulnerable unable to find hand sanitiser and gels”.

Stafford himself has attempted to buy a £15 baby thermometer but found it had sold out at almost all major online stores, including Boots, Argos, John Lewis, Superdrug, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Lloyds Pharmacy and Asda.

The only product he could find was available on eBay for £130, he told HuffPost UK.

Stafford has also been sent screenshots of hand sanitiser being sold online for £25 a bottle.

He urged the prime minister to make a simple amendment to competition law to stop profiteering, comparing the situation to Second World War “spivs” who operated in the black market in response to rationing.

Stafford said: “Some have been hoarding supplies of these products, with the aim to sell them on at an inflated price, profiteering from the vulnerable and law-abiding citizens at this time of national crisis. 

“Such behaviour is not reflective of business acumen; it is predatory, vicious and uncaring.

“These black-market profiteers need to be stamped out and shown that their actions are not only hurting innocent people, but also go against everything that Britain stands for. 

“I urge the government to quickly introduce emergency legislation that will stop such callous and avaricious behaviour, whilst ensuring that those who are most vulnerable in our society get the resources that they need. 

“No one should be making a profit out of other people’s misery.”

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Stafford is proposing an amendment to the Competition Act 1998 to make clear that it will be illegal for “individuals” to directly or indirectly impose unfair purchase or selling prices or other unfair trading conditions.

Earlier, business secretary Alok Sharma said the food chain is “resilient”.

“Please shop as you normally would do, the shops are going to be restocked, the supply chain is there.

“But it’s important that we all behave in a very sensible way when it comes to our shopping habits.”

HuffPost UK reported on Sunday that work supermarkets did to prepare for a no-deal Brexit has helped them maintain their supply chains.