The government set out clear guidance that all non-essential premises should be closed and businesses which need to remain open should adhere to the guidelines for social-distancing and queue control.
To ensure that local people have fair access to healthcare and provisions, businesses remaining open should ensure that stock levels and customer demand for important items are managed responsibly.
Many businesses are small local retailers, working extremely hard and selling items in high demand, including food and medicines. However, there are unfortunately a small number of businesses who are taking advantage of the current situation by increasing the prices for in-demand items or making misleading claims about the benefits of some products.
There is the potential for central government to create powers for the council, police and the Competition and Markets Authority to take enforcement action against traders seen to be taking advantage of the current COVID-19 climate to unnecessarily increase prices or profiteer. This could involve significant fines and other sanctions.
Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Council said: “As a borough we are facing our biggest ever health, social care and logistical challenge. To meet this, we are working with all our partners, from the NHS to the police, to ensure that we safeguard the most vulnerable.
“We also need to ensure all our residents have fair and equal access to the health care, provisions and medication that they need over the coming period.
“The vast majority of our local businesses are a credit to the borough and are working hard to provide vital supplies to residents and I thank them for their tireless efforts.
“I have no hesitation in condemning the small minority of retailers who are taking advantage of this situation by raising prices of food and other in-demand items and other irresponsible actions.
“It is critical that residents’ understandable anxiety and concerns are not exacerbated by such practices and that their trust and confidence in local businesses is maintained.
“Please help us to make sure we stamp out any profiteering so that your customers can have confidence in all businesses in the borough.”