Businesses warned against price gouging

Businesses warned against price gouging
GOES-16 satellite image taken on Thursday and provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Dorian moving over open waters of the Atlantic Ocean Handout/NOAA

Commission has received numerous complaints, inspections underway

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — With Hurricane Dorian, a Category 4 storm, barreling toward the northwest Bahamas, businesses are being cautioned against any attempt to take advantage of consumers.

According to operations and communications manager for the Consumer Protection Commission, Machelle Carroll, said were reports of merchants hiking prices ahead of the storm on essential items.

“We are asking consumers to reach out to us in regards to that; name the store and call us,” she told Eyewitness News Online.

“We have a hotline that has already been active for the last month and they are asking persons to call in. You can also go to the Consumer Protection Commission’s Facebook page and launch your complaint there or you can call the hotline numbers.

“We will find them (merchants in breach) as best we can within the law, as the law allow us.”

It is a criminal offense for businesses to excessively increase the price of essential items such as breadbasket food items, medical and prescription drug supplies, as well as hurricane preparedness items, including plywood and nails.

Carroll continued, “Merchants need to know that; they take advantage of consumers during this time. Do don’t mind them saying there is nothing [going] on in the islands. The administrators play a role for us when there is no inspector, so persons can go into the administrator’s office and lodge their complaint there, specifically the Abacos and Grand Bahama which are being affected now.”

Of merchants, she urged , “Please don’t take advantage of Bahamian consumers during this time.”

The government also issued a statement yesterday advising that price gouging and similar practices to increase prices on items in preparation and wake of a natural disaster is a criminal offense.

Monitoring by the commission began last week.

Inspectors continued visiting numerous stores, including food stores and hardware stores in New Providence and Grand Bahama today.

Carroll noted that suspected violations will be reported to the Office of the Attorney General.

Vendors, shopkeepers and businesses were also warned against price hoarding.

The commission, headed by Danny Sumner, advised all complaints will be thoroughly investigated.

The Ministry of Labour suspected violations will be “scrupulously enforced” during the passage and aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

“Vendors are warned that price Inspectors are currently moving about New Providence and Grand Bahama and other islands in the northwest Bahamas to monitor the sale of key items, such as water, batteries, flashlights, lanterns, gas, food items, etc. for the violation of price related laws,” the ministry said. “Violators will be dealt with in accordance with the law.”