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Irish consumers outraged as shops use Covid-19 as ‘business opportunity’

by Grace McGettigan
11th Mar 2020

As cases of Covid-19 continue to rise across Ireland, consumers are accusing businesses of using the virus for financial gain

People all over the country are being asked to up their personal hygiene in an effort to control the spread of Covid-19. That means more hand-washing, using hand sanitiser in-between, and avoiding coughing or sneezing near other people (which to many, is made easier by wearing a face mask).

However, since the coronavirus outbreak began, Irish consumers have reported a substantial increase in the cost of these items. Hickey’s Pharmacy, which has branches nationwide, is charging €150 for a packet of 50 face masks, which works out as €3 euro per mask.

The price increase has been slammed by customers as “unethical” and “disgusting”. One person said, “Disgraceful… [a] so-called community pharmacy robbing the people it’s supposed to help.” Another asked, “Have they no conscience or scrap of humanity?”

Hickey’s Pharmacy response

Replying to the negative reviews via Facebook, Hickey’s Pharmacy said, “In the current challenging environment relating to COVID-19 we are experiencing continued pressure on a number of products our customers are asking for.

“Due to the global demand in recent weeks for face masks, we have had to source alternative suppliers and are now paying between 15 and 30 times more per mask. Regrettably, this has had an impact on the retail price.

“The image you are referencing relates to a pack of 50 masks. Masks can also be purchased individually in our stores.

“We are doing everything we can to source products at the lowest price possible and as manufacturer & supplier prices lower, we can assure you we will be passing these reductions onto our customers.”

‘A tenner for hand sanitiser’

Face masks aren’t the only thing shooting up in price amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Hand sanitiser is also more expensive than ever. TD Paul Murphy tweeted a photo from his local Londis where a 90 ml bottle of hand sanitiser was priced at €9.95.

“A tenner for small 90 ml bottle of hand sanitiser!” He said. “That is €110 a litre. We need price controls to stop this profiteering by suppliers and retailers.”

A Londis spokesperson has since told the Herald that this is, “a highly regrettable situation which is not in keeping with Londis’ core values as a responsible community retailer”.

“We would like to assure customers that this issue was isolated to one independently-owned store only, and once the retailer was made aware of the matter on Friday they took immediate action and the price was reduced.”

Photo: Paul Murphy (left), Darren Redmond (right) via Twitter

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