COVID19: Consumers report ‘coronavirus profiteering’

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A COVID-19 outbreak in Cyprus has triggered profiteering as essential items are being sold on the black market while a government price ceiling on these products has not solved the issue, said a consumer group.

President of the Cyprus Consumers Union and Quality of Life, Loucas Aristodemou, told the Financial Mirror that the union he received dozens of complaints from consumers who are reporting profiteering, especially when it comes to hand sanitizers and other hygiene products.

“We are witnessing a number of supermarkets, pharmacies and other stores are taking advantage of people’s vulnerability and selling products at extremely high prices,” said Aristodemou.

He said they received a complaint from an elderly woman who had bought two protective masks from a pharmacy at €17 each.

The complaint was filed by her son who said that the pharmacist did not even provide a legitimate receipt for the purchases.

“Another consumer reported a pharmacy for selling surgical masks it had previously sold at 35 cents each, at €5”.

The consumer union has found supermarkets selling pure alcohol at almost €9 a bottle.

Aristodemou said stores that are not licensed to sell food or hygiene products such as hand sanitizers are popping up in plain sight.

“We have become aware of a store selling construction materials, which is now also selling groceries and personal hygiene products, without the necessary licenses, at high prices.”

He wondered where these stores got these products when there is a shortage in the market.

He argued the fact that supermarkets have a shortage of hand sanitizers while other shops seem to provide these products, points to these stores possibly stockpiling products in anticipation of the virus outbreak in Cyprus.

Aristodemou said an enforced price ceiling on sanitizers, face masks and thermometers does little to help consumers as the price range in the decree is higher than what these products were being sold for pre-crisis.

Petrol station owners were also accused of profiteering.

“Despite petrol prices plummeting internationally due to the coronavirus outbreak, they have just brought prices down a few cents.”