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Controlling Profiteering in Covid Emergency: Behind the Mask

The Minister with responsibility for Civil Contingencies Samantha Sacramento extended price controls of so-called “High Demand Supplies” including goods or articles used for personal sanitation purposes containing, labelled or described as featuring anti-bacterial or alcohol-based properties such as hand sanitizer gel, soap gel and soap bars; face-masks; gloves; paracetamol, vitamins, multi-vitamins, inhalers; toilet paper, kitchen paper, tissues and any variation thereof and cleaning disinfectants.

Price control ppe sanitizer mask covid gibraltar
Image by Yaroslav Danylchenko

On the 23rd December 2020, Sacramento signed the Civil Contingencies (Coronavirus) (Price Control No. 11) Regulations 2020, which came into operation on that same day and expires on the 21st January 2021 and are likely to be extended again then.

Mascarillas Algeciras COVID19 Toñi Esteban Raquel Collell

They repeat previous regulations dating from March of this year within days after the pandemic was declared. Except in cases where reasonable cause can be shown, it is illegal to sell such “High Demand Products” for a price in excess of 10% of what they were offered for sale on the 15th March 2020.

Where reasonable cost is shown, or a person has not previously sold “High Demand Products” the sale price shall not exceed 20% over the value of the landed cost i.e. including the cost of shipping, plus applicable duties, taxes and fees and handling fees. A breach can incur a fine of up to £10,000 and a criminal conviction.

For its part, the Gibraltar Government’s Office of Fair Trading previously issued a public statement which reads:

“As part of its consumer protection responsibilities the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is monitoring the prices of certain goods for which there has been an elevated demand since the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis.”

“The OFT is seeking to avoid traders profiteering from the lack of supply to meet the increased demands to the detriment of consumers who may be vulnerable, and therefore willing, to pay unreasonably inflated prices.

“In order to allow a comprehensive assessment of the situation the OFT would welcome information from the public about any traders who, in their view, are abusing the current crisis. They can do so by e-mailing the OFT’s Consumer Protection Team ( or by calling the OFT (200 71700)”.

Facemasks Andalucia Spain Mandatory
©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

Earlier this year, certain major UK retailers were accused of charging “excessive mark-ups” on face masks. Consumer bodies in that country claim that major retail chains pay between 20p and 30p for each medical 3-ply standard mask, but these can be retailed for as much as 70p to £1 each.

This led to calls for the UK government to intervene with complaints that the UK government was slow to act. According to the Students Against Corona initiative in the UK, some masks are sold by as much as £2 per unit and they themselves have been able to provide quality masks for as little as 20p the unit via their trade name “Mask Bros”.

Mask Bros UK
Mask Bros UK

In Gibraltar, ReachExtra has found that such masks are being retailed at between 40p and 75p with most manufactured in Chinese Government owned factories in Fujian Province and elsewhere. According to the Xinhua news agency Chinese capacity in March stood at 110,000,000 a day.

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