Profiteers could face jail under new Government regulations

Profiteers could face jail under new Government regulations

The Federal Government has introduced a raft of measures aimed at dissuading the export and price gouging of items considered "essential" in the fight against Covid-19.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton says these practices needs to stop, and the Government has stepped in by introducing tough penalties for those attempting to rip off Australians in need.

"We have acted decisively to address concerns about the hoarding and profiteering of essential goods, such as personal protective gear, disinfectants and other medical products and have introduced tough penalties for price gouging," says Dutton.

"These temporary measures will ensure that essential goods are distributed to those with the highest need, such as vulnerable communities, front line health workers and law enforcement, while safeguarding legitimate trade."

As reported by The Daily Telegraph, changes to the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 include potential jail sentences of up to five years for those caught exporting essential goods or selling these goods for exorbitant prices.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt has also made a determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015 to allow the Border Force to add essential goods already in their custody to the National Medical Stockpile.

As the practice of price gouging becomes a worry for the Government, Minister Hunt has introduced a requirement that will crack down on those attempting to extort Australian consumers.

The Health Minister's requirement prevents a person who has purchased essential goods at retail on or after 30 January 2020, and for the duration of the human biosecurity emergency period, from selling or offering to sell these goods for more than 120 per cent of the price for which they were purchased.

This measure will not apply to manufacturers or legitimate business activities, ensuring that it does not apply to key suppliers that are vital to maintaining Australia's supply chains.

Where individuals have been found to be engaging in 'price gouging', they will also be required to surrender the essential goods to the Australian Federal Police for provision to the National Medical Stockpile, or destruction if the goods are defective.

"These measures have become necessary because we have seen a small number of individuals engaging in the bulk purchasing of essential goods from retail outlets in Australia, with the intent of profiteering from exploitative exporting and price gouging," says Dutton.

"These goods are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19."

Updated at 4:32PM AEDT on 1 April 2020.

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