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BCC warns of ‘profiteers’ cashing in on the public’s Coronavirus fears

The industry body for the cleaning and hygiene sector has warned the public to beware of possible ‘profiteers’ cashing in on their fears about Coronavirus.  

The British Cleaning Council (BCC) says the public is being targeted by organisations from outside the established cleaning and hygiene sector, that offer products and services which purport to protect buyers from the virus but can come with an exceptionally high mark-ups or have no guarantee that they meet the correct standards or are fit for purpose.

The BCC warning came as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) warned that a substantial number of face masks, claiming to be of KN95 standards, provided an inadequate level of protection, were likely to be poor quality products accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork and must not be used as personal protective equipment at work.

Products and services which have raised concerns at the BCC include:

  • Facemasks that purport to be UK-made but have labelling in a different language
  • Facemasks that only cost around 2p to make being offered at vastly overinflated prices
  • Inappropriate fogging and misting services offered as a silver bullet solution to all infection control when proper cleaning processes remain crucial.

A lot of these products are marketed via email and are for sale online, BCC Chair Paul Thrupp said.

He said: “The public needs to beware of some organisations outside the established cleaning and hygiene sector playing on people’s fears about Coronavirus to take advantage of the unprecedented demand for cleaning and hygiene products and services.

“We are aware of many instances where the products and services they offer have been exceptionally overpriced, with no kind of guarantee that they will do the job.  

“People get spam in their email inboxes offering these products and services and it is all marketed in powerful and alarming language such as ‘Coronavirus’, ‘COVID-19’ and ‘ ‘pandemic’ and ‘only available whilst stocks last’. 

“We are concerned that the public could be put at risk or left out of pocket by what appears to be profiteering. People need to be careful who they buy cleaning and hygiene products and services from.  

“The honest and reputable businesses which make up the BCC’s member organisations would not take part in such sharp practices.”  

BCC member The Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA) has been working to highlight the issue. It has urged people buy products from CHSA members and has written to the Competition and Markets Authority to call for an investigation.

CHSA members sign the association’s rigorous code of practice, which requires them to be ‘well established’ in the cleaning and hygiene industry and to maintain a high standard in the conduct of their business.

The CHSA also runs accreditation schemes for distributors and manufacturers of soft tissue, plastic refuse sacks and industrial cotton mops. So, if consumers see the CHSA logo and CHSA accreditation scheme stamp on cleaning and hygiene products, they should be reassured.

Chairman of the CHSA, Lorcan Mekitarian, said: “Unscrupulous profiteers are capitalising on the extraordinary increase in demand for essential products. Buyers need to be cautious to avoid being caught out, paying incredibly high prices for product that is not fit for purpose. 

“I am proud to say our members are trading ethically. Instead of grabbing contracts at extortionate prices from desperate buyers, they are working hard to take care of their existing customers, warning of forthcoming restrictions in the supply chain and rationing where absolutely necessary.” 

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