People involved in price gouging could be fined up to $2m

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People involved in price gouging could be fined up to $2m

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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THE Government has moved to put a lid on price gouging, especially in terms of the retailing of products in heavy demand in the face of the market changes consequent to the spread of the novel coronavirus, with fines as high as $2 million applicable in the nation's parish courts.

An order issued by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, and supported by the affirmative action of the House of Representatives yesterday, says that effective March 31 retail goods vendors found selling the items at prices higher than those existing prior to the coming into force of the Disaster Risk Management (Declaration of Disaster Area) Order, 2020, on March 18, can face these fines.

The order was presented to the House yesterday by state minister in the ministry Floyd Green and requires that the price of retailed goods “remain at their pre-coronavirus/COVID-19 levels”.

Cited as the Trade (Sale of Goods During the Period of Declaration of Disaster Area) Order 2020, it reads:

“No person whose business includes the retail 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.”

It explains that “necessary goods” means any items used or intended for use as food or drink by a person; personal care items such as soap, cleaning products, anti-bacterial products, toiletries, alcohol, hand sanitisers, bleach, and gloves; and medical supplies, including surgical masks and prescription and non-prescription medication.

According to Green, the ministry has been receiving a number of reports of hefty increases in the prices of the goods since the virus threat.

“In one case, we got a report out of St Ann, where the aerosol spray that was normally sold for $850 retail was being sold for $1,641,” he said.

Green said that the ministry will be carrying out a public education campaign, and noted that the people who were suffering the most from the increases are the most vulnerable in the society.


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