Traders warned against price gouging

09/02/2018 09:06

The Consumer Council of Fiji is advising traders to refrain from engaging in price gouging following the news of an impending tropical depression likely to form into a category one tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours.

Price gouging refers to the market conduct where traders increase the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher level that is considered exploitative, potentially to an unethical and illegal extent. Unfortunately, price gouging is so ingrained in our culture.

During natural disasters, the Council has noticed an increase in complaints against traders who take advantage of people’s hardship by increasing prices of goods which are not under price control.

Items that consumers generally buy in preparation for the adverse weather in addition to food include batteries, candles, torches, bottled water, hurricane lanterns and lamps, chargers and lights, ropes, building materials, generators, tarpaulin, tents, carpentry and electrical tools and matches.

Some often use the excuse of an increase in demand as justification for the increase in price. The Council objects to such practices because high prices don't put goods in the hands of someone who values it more, but rather into the hands of someone who has money. Price gouging places a bigger burden on the poor.

Traders are also warned that increasing prices during natural disasters amounts to unfair trade practices particularly under Section 66 and 76 of Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission Act 2010.

Consumers are advised to avoid any last-minute shopping and exercise caution when shopping during cyclone warnings.