This has reference to the article titled “Reckless and predatory prices of goods – A necessary reform” published in the Kuensel issue dated September 5, written by Mr Sonam Tshering, Lawyer, Thimphu.
The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) appreciates the personal opinion expressed by the author and assumes that the article must have been written in the interest of society at large. However, the OCP noticed that the author has relayed serious erroneous information through the article which is completely unfounded and could have been easily avoided had the author sought clarification from the office before publishing it or a simple click on the Ministry’s website would have served the intended purpose of the author about the lack of ‘Price Catalogue’.
Since the establishment of the OCP in 2014, which the author misconstrued as a decade old, the office has been publishing Market Price Information (MPI) or ‘Price Catalogue’ of the essential goods from the major dzongkhags and thromdes on a quarterly basis to provide choices to the consumers through competitive prices of goods and facilitate informed purchase decisions. Simultaneously, the office has been advocating on the accessibility of MPI through various platforms to enable consumers to make informed purchase decisions and report to OCP in the event of unreasonable prices being charged by the business entities. And with the detection of the first Covid-19 case in the country, the office started collecting the MPI of essential commodities from all dzongkhags and thromdes on a daily basis to track and monitor the price of the goods and has been publishing it on official websites and gazettes from time to time.
Further, in anticipation of the price issues during lockdown, the office has been sensitising the shops authorised to operate to display prices mandatorily and sell at the prices effective before lockdown. The Office has been also collecting the MPI of essential commodities from the shops operating during lockdown and comparing with the MPI collected before lockdown to track the price escalation and monitor price manipulation. Through this, the OCP has been able to take appropriate action against the business entities engaged in unfair trade practices. The same exercise is being carried out in all 20 dzongkhags, drungkhags, gewogs and thromdes to ensure the protection of consumers’ economic interest during lockdown.
In addition, in a situation where the market prices could not be left to the market forces due to abnormal conditions such as a current pandemic, the office has been leveraging on relevant agencies to temporarily fix the prices of some of the essential commodities wherever possible and enforce it. For instance, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests have determined and fixed the market prices of vegetables and the OCP ensured that these prices are implemented by business entities.
In cognizance of vulnerabilities of the consumers amid current pandemic and heightened risk of exposing them into untoward economic situations through exploitation by unscrupulous business entities, the OCP is carrying out consumer protection activities and continues to explore every possible avenue to strengthen the system to effectively carry out the activities.
As the government ensures seamless supply of all required essential commodities clubbed under 21 broad categories, the consumers as part of their responsibility are requested to exercise due care while making any purchase decision and always ask for money receipt. Consumers are encouraged to report to the OCP through a toll-free number 1214 for any unfair trade practices and seek redresses/compensations in the event aggrieved by the unscrupulous business entities. To promote fair-trading and ensure consumer protection is a collective responsibility whereby we call for solidarity of everyone.
Lastly, the term “predatory pricing” in the article is misleading and inappropriately used. From an economic standpoint, it refers to the dominant firms deliberately lowering the prices of goods and services with the intention to force out the competitors from the market and restrict new entries. Such practices should be beneficial to the consumers through cheaper prices but the author has completely misplaced the context.
This clarification is being issued to provide right information to the general consumers.
Office of Consumer Protection,
Ministry of Economic Affairs