Price rip-offs – disaster advice

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Consumer Affairs Victoria can help with pricing issues in a disaster, such as a storm, flood, bushfire, earthquake or pandemic.

You may notice increases in the price of basic goods at this time of crisis.

This usually happens because:

  • it costs traders more to get goods into the shop – for example, they may have to transport things further due to road closures, which means bigger fuel bills 
  • supply and demand - prices go up when there is a lack of goods and greater demand.

However, the Australian Consumer Law protects you from ‘unconscionable conduct’ by traders.

Generally, unconscionable conduct is a statement or action so unreasonable it defies good conscience.

A business must not act unconscionably when:

  • selling or supplying goods and services to a consumer
  • supplying or acquiring goods and services to or from a business.

Price gouging and resellers - coronavirus (COVID-19)

We encourage all businesses to set fair prices during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Businesses can legally set their own prices, but must not mislead consumers about the reason for increased pricing. Excessive pricing by a business may be found to be unconscionable if the product is critical to help save or protect vulnerable consumers. This would make the high prices illegal.

Private sales are not covered by Australian Consumer Law. Private sellers can legally list face masks, hand sanitiser and toilet paper on classified sites for significantly more than they sell for in stores.

We urge consumers not to pay exorbitant amounts to people reselling important sanitary products. Retailers are aiming to keep shelves stocked with important products for those who need them.


The maximum civil pecuniary and criminal penalties for a body corporate are the greater of:

  • $10 million, or
  • three times the value of the benefit obtained from the offence, or act or omission, by the body corporate and any related bodies corporate if the benefit obtained can be determined by the court, or
  • if the court cannot determine the value of the benefit, 10 per cent of the annual turnover of the body corporate.

The maximum penalty for a person is $500,000.

If you suspect profiteering

Ask the business to explain price increases that seem excessive or unreasonable. If you are not satisfied with the business' response, you can lodge a complaint with us.

When lodging a complaint, provide as much information as possible including:

  • the business' name and location 
  • a description of the goods and the price 
  • copies of any receipts 
  • a photo of the sale sign.

For more information, view our General complaint page.