33 shops penalized for unfair trade practices by OCP since start of second lockdown

OCP imposed Nu 2.3 mn as penalties for unfair trade practices from March till December 31, 2020

According to the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), beginning from the second lockdown  till date January 1, 2021, 33 shops were penalized for engaging in unfair trade practices during the lockdown without adhering to the directives of the government and violating various provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2012 and Consumer Protection Rules and Regulation 2015.

Out of this, four shops were closed and disallowed to operate during the lockdown and the license of two vegetables wholesalers were recommended for cancellation.

OCP called all the shops, grocery wholesalers, vegetable wholesalers and LPG delivery service providers permitted to operate during the lockdown and directed them to refrain from price escalation and other unfair trade practices.

Chief of OCP Jigme Dorji pointed out that the businesses were sufficiently made aware to not take advantage of the situation through different channels of communications such as phone calls, official notification, media and visits to business premises.

“Everyone is experiencing difficulties and a little bit of effort on everyone’s part to be fair and help each other will go a long way in easing the difficulties of the pandemic. Therefore, the office will not tolerate any kind of unfair trade practices and stern action will be taken including penalties, closure of shops during lockdown and cancellation of business license if necessary,” he said.

On the other hand, the consumers are also requested to take due care while purchasing, ask for money receipt, make informed purchase decisions and act in good faith. Consumers are urged to report to the OCP through a toll-free number 1214 for any unfair trade practices and to seek redressal or compensation.

He said that these cases are nationwide but due to the size of the capital, most of the shops that were penalized are in Thimphu.

The office instituted market surveillance and monitoring teams in the regions with support of the Ministry, Dzongkhag, Dungkhag and Gewog administrations.

He said that there are around 900 officials from the local government carrying out market monitoring activities in the region. “These teams are vigorously carrying out market monitoring activities in the respective regions under direct supervision and guidance of the OCP,” he said.

The OCP coordinates with the team through WhatsApp group for market monitoring activities, reporting and support services. The monitoring reports are being submitted to OCP by the team from time to time for necessary action. The team also makes surprise inspections to ensure fair trade practices. The complaints are also lodged through a toll free number 1214.

In addition, there are designated officials to monitor various social media pages where consumers complain through their posts. The office ascertains the genuineness of the post and takes appropriate action.

He said that the main grounds for penalizing the erring businesses were on account of unfair increase in prices of commodities, sale of expired products, underweight goods and other violations.

“From the detection of the first case of COVID-19 in the country till December 31, 2020, the OCP has imposed Nu 2.313 mn as penalties and  Nu 0.295 mn was refunded to the aggrieved consumers,” he said.

The highest amount imposed was Nu. Nu. 240,000 calculated based on the volume of sales made through unfair means. To be fair to businesses, after verification of a complaint, a consumer was made to pay a shopkeeper for the non-payment of a purchase. 

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