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Coronavirus: Mayor of Newham urges government to grant councils emergency powers to act against price gouging

PUBLISHED: 19:00 24 March 2020

A receipt from a shop in Beckton dated March 17. Customers of shops across Newham have claimed storeholders have hiked their prices. Picture: Submitted

A receipt from a shop in Beckton dated March 17. Customers of shops across Newham have claimed storeholders have hiked their prices. Picture: Submitted

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The mayor is calling for more powers to tackle “unscrupulous” businesses trying to profit from the coronavirus pandemic.

Rokhsana Fiaz wants the government to grant Newham and other councils emergency powers to take action against businesses which have hiked the price of food and essentials.

Ms Fiaz, in a statement online, said: “It is immoral that a minority [is] seeking to profit in this time of national crisis, especially when people in Newham are facing severe economic hardship.”

In a letter, Ms Fiaz urged business secretary, Alok Sharma MP, to grant councils powers to end such “unscrupulous activity”.

Delivery driver, Saeed Khan, 29, estimated that prices at his usual grocer’s had doubled or tripled, putting his family’s finances under strain.

Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz wants greater powers to enforce against shopkeepers who have hiked prices in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Marianne Chua PhotographyNewham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz wants greater powers to enforce against shopkeepers who have hiked prices in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Marianne Chua Photography

“There’s no work, no business. People are not making money, and they are charging so much. They can’t do this,” the father of two said.

The Recorder has received reports of hikes in Green Street, Royal Docks and Beckton where one man, who asked not be named, was charged £19.98 for a baby chicken.

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However, a Forest Gate greengrocer, who also asked not to be named, said market wholesale prices had rocketed.

“The prices are crazy. It’s mental. Normally, I pay £2,000 for delivery, now I pay £9,000. We’re not making money. We’re working for nothing.

“We have to pass the price to the customer, we’ve no choice. I don’t want to destroy my custom, but I can’t do anything about it,” he added.

By way of example, he reported okra had shot up from £8.50 per kilogram to £20.

Watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority, urged retailers to behave responsibly, vowing to consider any evidence companies may have broken competition or consumer protection law.

It has set up a task force to identify harmful sales and pricing practices, including of hand sanitiser, vowing to act where necessary.

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, 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. But if they do not, our taskforce is monitoring market developments to enable us to intervene as quickly as possible.”

To report a business you suspect of price gouging visit gov.uk/government/collections/cma-covid-19-response and follow the link.

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