Friday 10 April, 2020

Price gougers put on notice of intent by Government trade order

Floyd Green (file photo)

Floyd Green (file photo)

Price gougers nationally have been put on notice that they could be slapped with a hefty fine or be imprisoned for up to two years.

This, as the House of Representatives on Tuesday responded to retailers who have been hiking prices amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by approving a resolution aimed at curtailing the practice.

The resolution was brought by State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green. It is to regulate the sale of goods during the period of a Declaration of a Disaster Area and should come into force on March 31, 2020.

“Prices of these items would have already entailed a profit margin and as such, for the Disaster Area Order and time period, we are saying that the retailers have to maintain those prices,” Green stated during his presentation.

The order; the Trade (Sale of Goods During Period of Declaration of Disaster Area) Order 2020, details that no person whose business includes the retail sale of goods shall sell any necessary goods to another person at a price higher than the price charged immediately before the coming into force of the Disaster Risk Management (Declaration of Disaster Area) Order 2020.

Under the order, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) has been authorised to demand on behalf of the Minister (of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries), books, accounts or other documents relating to the business, to investigate claims of price gouging.

“We meticulously reviewed our current legislative framework to identify the most effective approach to price gouging and the enforcement of penalties in a timely manner. This isn’t an issue that can be delayed, as people are experiencing it now, and we can’t allow that,” Green stated.

Price gouging occurs 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.

“I am making another call for consumers to make a report to the Consumer Affairs Commission where they are experiencing unreasonable increases in the prices of goods. The CAC also has an app in the play store where complaints can be made as well. Let’s work together to protect each other as we tackle this COVID-19 crisis,” said Green.

The offender under the new order can be held criminally liable, and could be subjected to a fine not exceeding $2 million, or to a term of imprisonment with or without hard labour not exceeding two years.

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