EU must control artificially high prices for essential products

    A woman with a protective mask checks vegetable prices at Madama Cristina market in Turin
    A woman with a protective mask checks vegetable prices at Madama Cristina market, which is virtually deserted after the Italian government imposed a virtual lockdown on a wide swathe of northern Italy, in Turin, Italy March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

    The European Commission and Member states must introduce specific national measures to control and monitor unfair high prices for essential products during the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Prices of food, medical and sanitary goods, and products have been unfairly increased by some distributers, retailers and manufacturers trying to be profiteering due to Coronavirus demand spike.

    Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been an increase in rogue traders exploiting the current situation to sell essential products at very high prices, claiming that stocks are running low, for example, and thus misleading consumers.

    There have been multiple complaints in different countries about a sudden surge in prices on certain products.

    Dishonest traders are using the Covid-19 outbreak to sudden price hikes of certain important products from 10% to 100% or even more. We are at a time of national emergency where a lot of workers around Europe have lost their jobs or are working under reduced hours schemes, therefore these unfair increases in essential goods are putting more financial pressure and constraints on the most vulnerable citizens during the pandemic.

    Current price extorting comes from sellers taking advantage and play on consumers’ fears caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. This is not right and should not be allowed to raise or fix prices and earn higher profits during this pandemic situation. People’s lives are at stake here.

    I have asked the Commission and the Member States to act and prevent such unfair trading practices and if necessary adopt specific enforcement measures to monitor and control prices of essential goods and products so that we stop abusive prices and channel supplies to those most in need.

    Alex Agius Saliba is a Labour MEP.