Fair Trading issues price gouging warning during COVID-19

The Queensland Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is warning traders to treat consumers fairly and avoid price gouging as shortages of some products continue as a result of COVID-19 panic buying.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said the OFT would consider all complaints made about price gouging or profiteering and investigate serious allegations where evidence was available.

“Prices for goods and services often rise in times of natural disasters and in other crises where supply chains are disrupted or where demand exceeds supply,” Mr Bauer said.

“We’re saying to traders: do not hike up prices exponentially during the COVID-19 emergency as significant penalties apply under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) if you are found to be acting unconscionably.

“Similarly, the ACL’s provisions relating to false and misleading representations will apply if a business is not truthful about the reasons why prices have increased.”

Very large penalties apply for breaches of the ACL including

  • up to $10 million per contravention, or
  • three times the value of the benefit obtained by the breach; or
  • if the court cannot determine the value of the benefit – 10 per cent of the annual turnover of the corporation

“The OFT is advising consumers that if they see unusually high prices for goods and services to check with the business why they have increased prices,” Mr Bauer said.

“If they are not satisfied with the response they should submit a complaint to the OFT for consideration.”

Consumers are encouraged to attach any documentation including photographs of advertising in support of their complaint.

More information about price gouging, profiteering and the ACL as well as other consumer and business matters relating to COVID-19 can be found at the OFT website.

OFT Media contact: 07 3738 8614 or 07 3738 8616.

OFT Media Release 30/04