Chhimi Dema

Thimphu – Deki Choden, 23, was startled to find that during lockdown a packet of WaiWai cost Nu 25.  The price of cabbage increased from Nu 40 to Nu 95 overnight.

“It is frustrating to find shopkeepers taking advantage of the situation,” she said.

Although the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs issued a notification asking the business entities to refrain from charging unfair and unreasonable price on the goods and services, some businesses were failing to comply, said consumers.

OCP’s chief programme officer Jigme Dorji said that OCP enhanced market surveillance and monitoring to ensure consumer protection during the lockdown.

Jigme Dorji said: “Effort continues to be made daily to ensure that the welfare of consumers is not compromised.”

Compared to the first lockdown, however, OCP has received fewer complaints this time.

“This may be attributed to the continued advocacy carried out in partnership with businesses by consumer teams across the country,” Jigme Dorji said.

The market is monitored throughout the country in partnership with dzongkhag administration and local governments.

Jigme Dorji said that the complaints received by OCP were reviewed and investigated immediately. “For quicker redressal of the aggrieved consumers, the business entities found indulging in price manipulation are directed to immediately compensate and refund the additional amount charged.”

Administrative measures following the consumer regulations were decided virtually.

OCP receives complaints daily regarding unfair and unethical trade practices, especially increasing the prices of commodities.

However, Jigme Dorji said that complaints related to the sale of an expired product, underweight, lack of proper product labelling, and non-issuance of money receipts, denial and late home delivery service of goods were relatively low.

OCP has urged consumers to ask for receipts, make informed purchase decision and report through their toll-free number 1214 on any unfair trade practices.

Thinley Dorji, 55, from Zhemgang, said that many shopkeepers did not provide receipt.

“A shopkeeper said he does not issue receipt,” Thinley Dorji said. “The government should ensure that every shop in the country, including the vendors, provide receipts.”