EDITORIAL – Clamp down needed on price gouging

UNLESS the Barbados Government takes matters into its hands and deals with the price gouging taking place in the country then consumers will have no choice but to fork out the money to pay for the items they want to acquire.

Since the threat of Covid-19 has become a reality, forcing consumers to throng supermarkets and other establishments, they have been faced with price increases even as the private sector association, the government and whoever else said it is something that cannot be condoned especially in the prevailing environment.

The price hikes have become an issue of enormous proportions and while those guilty of the practice will plead innocent and the Government agency responsible for monitoring prices remains reluctant to do anything about it, consumers are forced to grin and bear it.

Covid-19, once its impact intensifies, will be a challenge to the country as it looks to come to grip with the fall out and to see that measures announced last Friday by the Prime Minister Ms. Mia Amor Mottley will bring relief to the population. She announced a series of fiscal measures designed to shield Barbadians against the rigours of the virus that in causing much death and destruction across the globe.

But will there be respite for consumers? That is debatable.

Consumers are quite aware that every time they make a purchase they can expect the price of that item or service to increase.

In a supermarket last week, a lady when told that the price of the item she was buying cost $25, remarked loudly for everyone to hear, that she was accustomed paying $15 for the product. She placed it back on the shelf and walked out the supermarket.

There are certain factors that contribute to an increase in prices. Increased demand for an item or service can cause the price to go up even if as economists say there is no movement in the prices of substitute products.

Shortages also have an impact on prices, some competition among retailers, imported prices and higher global charges for oil, the middlemen in the chain of distribution, the overheads of business establishments, tend to result in an upward movement in prices to the consumers. To these can be added government taxes and the mark-ups which the retailers seek to gain from the sale of goods and services are also responsible.

Not so long ago the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) was blamed for all the price increases taking place in Barbados. The NSRL was introduced to ensure that importers pay for their imports up front. This did not go down well with some who argued it was a cost on imports and as ruled the additional charges on the items had to be passed on to consumers.

However, when the announcement was made to abolish NSRL the country was told that prices would be lowered after a few months once the stock of items which were subjected to the NSRL, were sold. That was in 2018 and last year’s prices were up 4.1 per cent.

Price gouging is not new to Barbados. We do not have a Consumer Rights Organization. It is therefore up to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to wrestle this thing to the ground as Covid-19 looks to take a stranglehold Barbados.

Barbados Advocate

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