// CMA and General Pharmaceutical Council wrote to pharmacies in joint letter to not raise prices on vital items
// The warning comes after an investigation by the watchdogs into increased prices
// Retailers and pharmacies have been warned of prosecution if they are caught cashing in on vital items
Two watchdogs in the UK have reportedly warned pharmacies to not overcharge customers for in-demand items such as face masks, hand sanitiser and paracetamol during the coronavirus pandemic.
The CMA and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) wrote in a joint letter to businesses that as face masks have now become compulsory on public transport and increasing numbers of people are returning to work, shops should not use this as an opportunity to raise prices, The Guardian reported.
The added that while most businesses were not increasing prices, they had received reports “alleging that a small minority of pharmacies are seeking to benefit from the coronavirus pandemic by charging unjustifiably high prices for essential products”.
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The CMA referred to investigations it has launched into four retailers, including pharmacies, it suspected had charged “excessive and unfair” prices for hand sanitiser products.
Meanwhile, the GPhC said it had written to some pharmacies asking them to review the prices they were charging for particular items and consider whether they should be changed.
The watchdogs said they recognised wholesale prices for some items had increased as a result of high demand.
Extra costs for PPE and cleaning products might justify limited higher mark-ups across the board but the CMA said pharmacies should not be applying these disproportionately to essential items.
The CMA set up a coronavirus taskforce when the pandemic first struck the UK, and has since collected complaints from consumers during lockdown.
It has warned companies it will take action if they are found to be capitalising from increased prices on items that are vital at the moment.
In April, it sent advisory or warning letters to 187 companies after receiving 2500 complaints about substantial price increases on food and personal hygiene products such as hand sanitisers.
Companies that do not comply can be taken to court.