RETAILERS have been warned they could be prosecuted for increasing prices during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government's competition watchdog said anyone found selling protective products at inflated prices could be charged, as families become increasingly vulnerable during the outbreak.

This includes those who charge excessive prices or make misleading claims about the efficacy of protective equipment.

If necessary, it said it will consider asking the Government to introduce price controls.

CMA chairman, Lord Tyrie, said: "We will do whatever we can to act against rip-offs and misleading claims, using any or all of our tools; and where we can’t act, we’ll advise government on further steps they could take, if necessary."

CMA chief executive, Andrea Coscelli, added: "We urge retailers to behave responsibly throughout the coronavirus outbreak and not to make misleading claims or charge vastly inflated prices.

"We also remind members of the public that these obligations may apply to them too if they resell goods, for example on online marketplaces."

Despite the pledge to protect consumers, hundreds of shoppers have taken to twitter to reveal essential items being sold for eye-watering prices at small, often independent retailers such as newsagents.

"£10 for a loo roll cannot be dismissed as a “slightly higher price,” one shopper wrote on twitter.

Another said: "It seems to be a running theme of these corner shop owners especially in my area buying all toilet paper; sanitisers and baby food and milk which they are selling for over £50 a tub."

But what are your rights in these situations and who can you complain to?

"The CMA wants to ensure that traders do not exploit the current situation to take advantage of people by charging excessive prices or making misleading claims about products," a competition and markets authority spokeswoman told the Mirror.

"We are monitoring reports of changes to sales and pricing practices during the Coronavirus outbreak and will be providing a further update shortly.

"Where we can act, we will do so; and where can’t act, we’ll advise government on further steps they could take, if necessary."