Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon on Friday said Consumer Affairs Division officials have been perusing supermarkets and will soon "name and shame" businesses taking advantage of the covid19 pandemic by price gouging.
Gopee-Scoon made the announcement in Tobago on Friday after a meeting with Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and the Tobago Chamber of Commerce to discuss the economic impact of the measures taken to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Asked about unscrupulous business owners who have jacked up prices of in-demand products by over 100 per cent, the minister said: "That is really, really unfortunate. I held a press conference with consumer division...and the Fair Trading Commission and we attended to (the issue of) price gouging. Price gouging is not illegal but we have appealed to the good graces of the supermarket owners, but they should not do that."
Gopee-Scoon said some businesses bring in goods via air freight instead of sea freight and "there is a natural cost attached to that.
"But what you have said about 150 per cent, I am in shock. That should not be so. We have made this appeal, 'Don't be unreasonable,' because we are going to name and shame."
She said the Consumer Affairs Division has heard the complaints and are currently gathering data to publish.
"The consumer affairs division, our members have been in supermarkets this week and I'd want to think the ones in Tobago are also doing the same. We are going to publish, so consumers have a choice about where consumers are going to make their purchase. If somebody is selling something at an exorbitant price, please don't buy it. We are going to putting on social media the comparison of prices. The consumer is upper most in our minds."
She said the Fair Trading Commission will also do its part to clamp down on unscrupulous practices.
"At the level of the Fair Trading Commission, we are looking at those who are price fixing. Those that are making a special contract arrangement: 'I'll pay you $50,000, only sell my products, don't sell another brand.' Those are the kinds of things the fair trading will be looking at. Those who say, 'I will sell at one location, you will sell another location.' The supermarket owner can't shop around and see what's available. You see price fixing, fixing of locations, conditions attached to contracts, there are fines attached to that. I think it is ten per cent of your annual turnover or something like that."