Face masks cost up to 2.5 times more in online pharmacies

Face masks cost up to 2.5 times more in online pharmacies
Mask prices are not regulated in Belgium, which allows free competition between sellers. Credit: Belga

The prices of face masks and disinfectant gels have become up to 2.5 times more expensive in the last three weeks, according to consumer organisation Test-Achats.

Over the course of three weeks, Test-Achats has received more than 200 reports of malpractices related to the crisis sparked by the new coronavirus (Covid-19), of which almost a quarter concerned price increases for disinfectant gels and masks.

The consumer organisation wants to introduce a maximum price, based on the principle of not abusing a shortage situation, that is widely ignored by sellers of these health products and is not even respected by all pharmacists, Test-Achats said on its website.

Over half of the reports the organisation received have to do with purchases in a pharmacist, the others concern malpractices on websites such as bol.com, Facebook and supermarkets.

The average price of FFP2 masks currently displayed in online pharmacies is €5.69/piece. “However, some consumers have told us much higher prices, up to €15 per mask,” Test-Achats said.

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“The prices of surgical masks, which generally cost between €0.10 and €0.30 per piece, have not prevented a residential care centre from receiving a bill for over €700 for 120 surgical masks from its pharmacist. A cost of no less than €6 per mask,” it added.

The consumer organisation has asked the government to introduce a maximum price on disinfectant gels and masks, and it also sent a list of pharmacists, which were reported by customers, to the Order of Pharmacists.

Mask prices are not regulated in Belgium, which allows free competition between sellers, according to Test-Achats, but taking advantage of a shortage situation remains forbidden.

The organisation has sent letters to Federal Ministers Nathalie Muylle and Philippe De Backer, as well as Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, to ask for a maximum price on these products.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times


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