OCP carrying out market surveillance as prices go up

There has been a recent price escalation on certain commodities in the market. The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) is trying to figure out the forces at play for the price fluctuation.

Through a collection of Market Price Index (MPI) and market monitoring, OCP has come to notice the price increase in commodities in the market, such as egg, meat, dry fish, grocery items etc. The office is carrying out a study to determine the causes of the price escalation so that it can make its recommendation to relevant stakeholders for appropriate intervention.

Chief Program Officer, OCP, Jigme Dorji, said, “The challenge is that there are many invisible hands in the market that influence the prices, and when there is a price escalation beyond reasonable grounds, the office has to determine whether the consumers are unfairly exploited, taking situational advantages. Every case is unique, and the office has to deal with it uniquely through a thorough study.”

Some of the grocers around Olakha and Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) said that the lockdown in India and the border gate closure in Bhutan have impacted their buying patterns, and they are bearing the additional labor costs and transportation charges nowadays.

According to Nam’s Enterprise, Dzumdzum Tshongkhang and UTL Collection Store, previous schemes and offers that used to be there for certain products, like for Coca Cola, Britannia, Nestle, etc., have stopped. They said that currently they are not selling those items at a good profitable margin as before, and there is not much increase in the prices from their suppliers other than the absence of the buying schemes and offers.

Other than those items, one of the owners said that prices for some items have slightly gone up but not to an extent of concern. She said, “For example, rice branded Raj Bhog which we used to previously sell at around Nu 950 would cost about Nu 1050 at this time.”

Most of the grocers agreed that the highest price rise is seen in the price of eggs. Dokar Grocery located at CFM area along with other stores reported that the price of eggs has changed drastically, with some of them recalling to selling a 7-tray of egg carton at Nu 1,900 to Nu 2,100 and now priced at Nu 2,800 to Nu 2,900 for the same.

There are some imported products, such as biscuits, chocolates and cosmetics, that are in short supply due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, some people living in remote localities reported that whether there was COVID-19 or not, they have had to buy consumer goods at a higher price.

In response, the OCP stated, “The office is mindful of emerging unfair trade practices in remote areas. For this reason, the office has established market surveillance and monitoring teams leveraging on local functionaries to ensure that the consumers are not exploited.”

Additionally, OCP also advised the consumers to be mindful and aware of the consumer’s rights and responsibilities, in order to discourage such unfair trade practices and alert the authority through a toll-free number 1214 or other appropriate means.

Jigme Dorji added, “The office has noted the case of unfair trade practices, like charging unreasonable prices on the goods and services, using faulty weights and measures, supply of defective products, inferior quality of goods and services, etc.”

He said,the office intervenes in every transaction, marketing, offering, selling or supply of goods or services within Bhutan, between the business entities and consumers, whether online or offline, unless it is exempted under any other law in force in Bhutan.

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