// CMA sets up a taskforce to target coronavirus pandemic profiteers
// Follows widespread concerns that rogue traders are seeking to rip off the public by charging excessive prices
// CMA has already contacted retailers over excessive pricing of hand sanitiser as part of its efforts
The UK’s peak competition authority has set up a taskforce to crack down on businesses seeking to exploit and the escalating coronavirus crisis.
The CMA said the pandemic has prompted concerns that people could be exploited by companies “charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about their products”.
It also said it has already contacted retailers and online market platforms over excessive pricing of hand sanitiser as part of its efforts.
The CMA said new taskforce would endeavour to spot harmful sales and pricing practices, warn firms and traders suspected of exploiting the “exceptional circumstances” and people’s vulnerability, and take action should there be evidence the law has been broken.
The taskforce would also hand out warnings when necessary, and provide advice on emergency legislation to close loopholes.
In addition, it would work to ensure competition law does not hamper moves to protect public health and essential supplies.
The news comes after it was revealed today that UK grocers were given the green light to work together to keep shelves stocked, shops open and delivery vans running as the coronavirus pendemic worsens.
The government said it would relax competition laws from next week to allow supermarkets to cooperate in a bid to feed the nation as many self-isolate.
In a meeting with supermarket bosses and food industry chiefs on Thursday, Environment Secretary George Eustice confirmed some elements of legislation would be temporarily waived.
This included allowing retailers to share data with each other on stock levels, cooperate to keep shops open, or share distribution depots and delivery vans.
Moreover rules around drivers’ hours have been relaxed so retailers can deliver more food to stores, and the 5p plastic bag charge will be suspended for online purchases to speed up deliveries.