OCP tracks down and fines unreasonable chili price hikers

Based on the consumer complaints received through toll free number 1214 regarding the unreasonable price charged by the vegetable vendors on the green chilies sold in the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM), and after investigations by Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), it was found out that the vegetable suppliers/brokers and vegetable vendors, taking situational advantage, unfairly charged the unreasonable prices on green chili aggrieving consumers.

Further, they failed to comply with the notifications issued by the government directing business entities to avoid charging unreasonable prices taking undue advantage of current difficult situations.

Establishing their acts as unfair and unethical trade practices contravening Consumer Protection Act of Bhutan 2012, the office had imposed the fine of Nu 4,320 to Phurba Singh Tamang (supplier), Nu. 4,060 to Karma Choechab (supplier). Three vendors were fined Nu 12,960, Nu 1,440 and Nu 1,740.

OCP, MoEA, in collaboration with the Drug Regulatory Authority have also carried out the investigation to check the reliability and efficacy of the Isopropyl Alcohol advanced hand sanitizer and the price manipulation.

According to the OCP report, the lab testing of this product revealed that the product does not meet the minimum acceptable level of 60% v/v alcohol content (as recommended by the WHO Guideline on Hand Hygiene in Healthcare) and antimicrobial activity.

OCP investigated Ram Krishna Mishra, a competent person (CP) working for one of the pharmaceutical shops in Thimphu, who imported the product from Jain Builders, MG Road, Jaigoan, India, which is found to be an unreliable source and supplied to pharmacy shops in Thimphu at unreasonable prices by manipulating documents.

Chief Program Officer, OCP, Jigme Dorji, said, “There was sufficient evidence in a product labeling that an average person could reasonably foresee and infer that the product is not fit for the particular purpose. As a certified competent person, he failed to exercise professional diligence, instead supplied the inferior product through fraudulent practices. He was directed to recall this inferior product from the market and accept the product returns.”

For charging exorbitant prices taking undue advantage of the market situation, he was imposed a fine of Nu 53,225 as per the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act of Bhutan 2012. There were also other brands of hand sanitizers that did not meet the minimum acceptable level which were recalled for safety reasons.

According to the OCP, the office has been continuously receiving the consumer complaints on price escalation and other unfair trade practices from various parts of the country. To address the issues, the office has formed market surveillance and monitoring teams involving officials from various departments of MoEA and deputed in different areas in Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Wangdue and Punakha.

At regional, dzongkhag and gewog levels, they are currently collaborating with Regional Trade and Industry Offices, dzongkhag and gewog administrations to carry out market surveillance and monitoring to protect economic interest and safety of the consumers. The teams are constantly observing and monitoring the markets to ensure that unfair trade practices are not proliferating.

The office has also formed teams in all dzongkhags and thromdes to collect market price. Information of the essential commodities on a real time basis and publish for consumers to make informed purchase decisions. It is also to keep track of price movement in the markets and monitor price manipulation.

The Consumer Help Line Toll Free number 1214 is operated for 24/7 to advise consumers, facilitate lodging of complaints, and address consumer issues in the market.

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