A COUNCIL leader has appealed to small shopkeepers, often Asian convenience store owners, not to hike their prices during the coronavirus outbreak as customer complaints mount.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough boss Cllr Mohammed Khan spoke out after receiving calls from residents about corner shops profiteering from the crisis.

He has been backed by borough Retail Newsagents Federation president Cllr Suleman Khonat, who warned overcharging shopkeepers they could be sacrificing long-term trade for short-term profits.

Both men said they had received many complaints about overcharging since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, mostly about Asian-run shops.

Their appeal comes as thousands of East Lancashire residents working from home turn to their local corner shop to avoid queues and empty shelves at supermarkets.

There have been several cases reported on, including stores in Asian neighbourhoods doubling their prices and a woman being charged £17.99 for one kilo of lamb by a Blackburn halal butcher.

Cllr Khan contacted the Lancashire Telegraph to say: “People have been contacting me to say that small shops, particularly Asian ones, have been increasing their prices because of the current crisis.

“I am very concerned about those prices hikes as are people in the community.

“This should not be happening.

“Shopkeepers should not be putting profits before people.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Councillor Mohammed Khan 

He has asked borough chief executive Denise Park to write to the Government to see if councils can be given powers to control the prices of essential food and goods during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cllr Khonat, North-West representative on the federation’s national executive, said: “I am getting people ringing me about this. All the calls have been about Asian shopkeepers.

“I have been in touch with local newsagents telling them overcharging like this is wrong if not illegal. I have had complaints of shops charging two or three times the proper price.

“Putting profit before the community is morally wrong. It is un-Islamic. People who are overcharged during this crisis will not come back to those shops.

“The shopkeepers might make a short-term profit for two or three weeks but they will lose trade and money in the long-term.”