Dechen Dolkar    

A total of 43 business entities were penalised for business violations as of February 10, including two shops ordered to shut down until the lockdown ends.

The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) department under the Ministry of Economic Affairs has inspected on an average 65 business entities a day at various markets since the beginning of the lockdown to ensure fair trade practices.

A total of 1,104 business entities in Thimphu were inspected, and some repeat visits were made. The businesses include fruit and vegetable shops, fruit and vegetable wholesalers, grocery shops, meat shops, LPG delivery agents, BOD, and medical shops.

Chief Programme Officer Jigme Dorji said that from the start of the lockdown until February 10, the OCP received and assessed 96 consumer complaints through various channels.

“As of February 10, 43 business entities have been imposed penalties amounting to Nu 228,414.80 for various business violations,” he said.

He said that the fines range from Nu 110 to more than Nu 12,000.

“Most of the complaints are related to the hike in the price of vegetables,” he said.

Jigme Dorji said that there were also complaints against shopkeepers selling imported eggs at a high price. Shopkeepers were supposed to sell imported eggs at Nu 315 a tray and some of them sold eggs at Nu 350 to Nu 640 a tray.”

In consultation with thromde, the OCP has closed and disallowed continued business at one farm shop and a vegetable shop during the lockdown as these business entities repeatedly failed to comply with prescribed rates of vegetables, despite warnings and imposing penalties.

Most dzongkhag administrations have activated their market surveillance and monitoring team (MMST) to carry out market monitoring activities in their respective regions.

Jigme Dorji said that they have also received a few complaints from other dzongkhags. “All consumer complaints are investigated as soon as possible, and necessary actions taken.”

Jigme Dorji urged businesses to display pricing legibly and prominently and issue money receipts for any goods or products valued above Nu 100, if and when demanded by buyers.

“Consumers have to be aware of prices of goods fixed by the government and for other products or services where prices are not fixed, know what a “reasonable” price is for that product or service prior to purchase,” he said. “If people feel the prices are exorbitantly high compared to other times or to other business entities, report it to the OCP.”

The OCP’s toll-free number 1214 takes consumer complaints and provide relevant information around the clock, he said.