Forget toilet paper for $20 a roll, or 200ml of hand sanitiser for the black market price of a kidney – research has revealed the price of freezers was hiked up most during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Consumer advocacy body Choice has been watching price-gouging behaviour by retailers since March.
Its surveillance identified a range of retailers exploiting people’s fear through unfairly hiking up the prices on certain items.
As Australians were urged to lock down and stay home as much as possible, some turned to whitegoods retailers to buy a freezer to help keep their family fed.
Instead, some retailers chose to lift their freezer prices by as much as 63 per cent.
Choice’s campaigns and policy adviser Amy Pereira said no supply chain experts could pinpoint a justification for the price increases that were seen across a range of freezers and other whitegoods.
“It’s vital that we look at what happened during this crisis and put protections in place to make sure Australians don’t get exploited again – whether that be through price gouging or panic marketing,” Ms Pereira said.
Choice surveyed about 1000 households during March, to ask if they’d noticed prices increasing as the pandemic took hold.
In New South Wales, 38 per cent of people reported seeing inflated prices, as did 37 per cent in Victoria.
Tasmanians reckon their prices were pushed up the most, 44 per cent said price tags were higher.
The scary thing about price gouging is it’s not illegal – this is something Choice wants changed.
It has started a petition online to help bring the issue to the attention of politicians, state and federal.
“It’s important that we look back at the height of the crisis and assess what went wrong … We’ve seen some inexcusable opportunism, panic marketing and price gouging from retailers across the country,” Ms Pereira said.
“It’s particularly concerning to hear at least one in three Australians felt the impacts of price gouging.”