The flour went to almost double the price (Image: BPM MEDIA)

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A supermarket boss has been hauled into court after hiking the price to nearly double of flour during the height of the coronavirus panic buying.

Food World in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham, was visited by the city council's trading standards during a crackdown on 'dual-pricing' as the pandemic ramped up last year.

Officers initially found £1 toilet tissues being sold for £1.49 which business owner Amjad Rehman apologised for and dismissed as a 'mistake'.

But around a fortnight later a woman who had travelled from Banbury, in Oxfordshire, in desperate search of chapatti flour, contacted the council feeling 'cheated'.

It emerged the customer had been charged nearly double the usual price for a 25kg Elephant-branded pack.

Prices were increased
(Image: BPM MEDIA)

The 25kg of Elephant-branded chapatti flour was normally sold in the shop for £12.49 but was increased to £22 by the shopkeeper who claimed he was charged more by the wholesaler

Rehman later claimed he only charged the prices he himself had paid to wholesalers.

At Birmingham Magistrates' Court on Thursday, the 56-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in a misleading commercial practice on behalf of himself as well as his company Rehman Foods.

He and the firm were hit with a combined court bill of nearly £2,000. Council officers attended the supermarket on March 19 last year and challenged Rehman about the toilet tissues.

Prosecutor Emma Hall said: "He said he was busy, and that the overcharging was a mistake. He apologised and said he was sorry."

The authority was then contacted by the flour customer on April 2.

Ms Hall told the court: "She felt cheated. When she got home she looked at the bag and realised they had stickered over the real price. She mentioned it to the man in the shop and he said that was the price he had paid for them."

She added: "What isn't clear is what the price was to the consumer. But you can't dual price and can't inflate price when demand is high."

The shop in Birmingham
(Image: BPM MEDIA)

Amrisha Parathalingam, defending, said: "This has had a very stressful impact on him. It's a small business. In terms of the flour he tells me either he or a staff member had to queue at the wholesalers for two and half hours and were allowed two bags of flour each.

"They were sold at an inflated price. He realises he should have reported this to the council instead of passing it on to his consumers. The company is running a loss currently, it is not doing very well."

Rehman, of Raglan Road, Edgbaston, was given a conditional six-month discharge on one of the offences, but fined £180 for the other. He must also pay a £34 victim surcharge and £717.50 in costs.

Rehman Foods was fined £300 and similarly saddled with a £34 victim surcharge and £717.50 in costs.

The Chair of the Bench said: "The pricing in a sense is immaterial, the offence was committed. From a trading point of view it gives a bad impression for the business was attempting to price gauge particularly at a time when an enormous amount of individuals were under pressure to find food.

"I accept there was no malintent but the impression was not a pleasant one."