JIS News

The Government has established hotlines for consumers to report any market abnormalities, including price gouging and tied sales or the “marrying” of goods.Commerce, Science and Technology Minister, Phillip Paulwell has pointed out that a survey conducted by the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), indicated that while price gouging was not found to a significant degree in the formal sector, extensive price increases had taken place at the secondary level.
The CAC study found that the prices for basic food items and supplies had increased significantly in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan and some vendors were “marrying” certain items with other goods for sale.
Persons are encouraged to call the following hotline numbers to report offences: 929-0033-5 or 929-0050-1. The lines are open between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays.
Speaking at a recent press briefing in Kingston to update journalists on the outcome of a meeting involving the government and members of the distributive trade, the Minister said that the Government would be recommending certain price bands within which basic food items and supplies must be sold.
The Minister pointed out that the law allowed for the establishment of price bands. “The Fair Competition Act prescribes against price fixing, which is not what we are seeking to do, but it does allow for us to indicate what are recommended prices,” he explained.
Reasonable price bands would be determined for a number of items after consultation with the various members of the distributive trade. At such time, persons found to be selling above these bands would be guilty of a criminal offence.
Mr. Paulwell pointed out that provisions under the public emergency powers invoked by the Prime Minister prior to Hurricane Ivan, would be looked at in dealing with price gouging and to make the practice a criminal offence.
“We are treading very carefully in relation to this, but we want to send a very strong message to those retailing goods, that they ought not to take advantage of consumers at this time,” the Minister emphasised.
In the meantime, Minister Paulwell said that after wide discussions with the various representatives, the nation could be assured that there were adequate supplies of hardware, pharmaceuticals and food supplies, including flour, rice, cornmeal, biscuits, bread and sugar and that every step was being taken to ensure that supplies were available even into Christmas.
The situation was the same for proteins, fertilizers, animal feeds and beverages, he said. “There should be no need for panic or panic purchasing,” he assured.
The Minister met with the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance, members of the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA) and other members of the petroleum industry, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the Bakers’ Association of Jamaica, hardware merchants, members of the distributive and importing trade, members of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, the pharmaceutical trade and representatives from the retailing trade, including Super Plus and HiLo, among others.

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