Gov't looking to make amendments to target price gougers - Green
The Government is attempting to use the law to go after businesses and individuals who are engaging in price gouging to take advantage of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green, has instructed the Ministry’s legal counsel to draft appropriate amendments to put immediate regulations in place to combat the practice.
Price gouging relates to when a seller increases the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair, and is considered exploitative in all the circumstances.
“The ministry is seeking to identify and immediately address the issue of price gouging by supermarkets and retailers in light of the threat of the coronavirus disease," Green said in a statement on Tuesday.
He added: “The country has to work together in order to overcome this. Producers, distributers and consumers, we all have to protect each other’s interest. There is no room for this inexcusable behaviour. Price gouging will not be tolerated and we are moving swiftly and aggressively to impose fines and sanctions to stop this.”
Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is an offence to mislead and deceive consumers “with respect to the price of any goods or services”. The penalty is a fine not exceeding $1 million, or imprisonment not exceeding one year.
Green noted that the law does not speak specifically to price gouging. He said the proposed regulations will seek to rectify excessive price increases during an emergency.
He has therefore tasked the ministry’s legal team to seek possible amendments to the Consumer Protection Act to make price gouging an offence in the case of an emergency or disaster.
“I want to encourage consumers that where they have seen sharp increases in the price of goods with no reasonable explanation, they are to make a report to the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) and also use the power of social media.
“Utilize the CAC App. We have to tackle this issue, and these new regulations will ensure that immediate actions are taken,” Green stated.