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Super Value Lacks Documents To Help Price Control

Price Control Commission Chairman Dr EJ Bowe speaks to members of the media yesterday at Super Value on East Street and Robinson Road. Photo: Tim Clarke/Tribune Staff

Price Control Commission Chairman Dr EJ Bowe speaks to members of the media yesterday at Super Value on East Street and Robinson Road. Photo: Tim Clarke/Tribune Staff

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

PRICE Control Commission Chairman EJ Bowe yesterday expressed disappointment at a local supermarket for not having the necessary documentation that would have assisted his organisation in its attempts to control alleged “price gouging” by retailers throughout New Providence.

According to Mr Bowe, Super Value’s Robinson Road and East Street stores did not have a report detailing the initial price of their bread basket items and extended bread basket items, landed fees, and the subsequent 23 per cent markup on the landed price for New Providence.

The discovery was made shortly after noon yesterday during one of the PCC’s price control inspections on various grocery and retail stores. The spot checks come amidst complaints by residents of retailers raising the prices on goods and services following the implementation of the government’s 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT), which came into effect on January 1.

According to the complaints of various residents, the prices are often noticeably higher than they would normally be, even without VAT attached to the cost.

Yesterday, Mr Bowe said it made “no sense” for Super Value not to have the necessary documentation. He also said the PCC was “very committed” to combatting price gouging, and said any retailers caught engaged in the practice would be “prosecuted.”

“Copies of those documents should at least be here,” Mr Bowe said of Super Value. “When head office is dispatching the goods to come to those various stores, when they send it to them, send copies of the documents. Why the store can’t have the documents?

“Price gouging must be stopped. We cannot allow the merchants to put up prices at their whims and fancy. There are regulations in place and they have their mark up and all of that. What we told (retailers) is you have your mark up, but do not go one cent above the ceiling of the price control regulation that is stipulated. But we’re very concerned because we get complaints from consumers all the time.”

Yesterday, Mr Bowe and a group of PCC inspectors scoured Super Value to ensure that the store’s price placement on bread basket items and extended bread basket items was in accordance with local specifications.

According to Mr Bowe, however, inspectors soon realised that the store did not have the documentation detailing the initial price of the items, landed fees, and the subsequent 23 per cent markup on the landed price for New Providence, information that would allow them to successfully complete their inspection.

As a result, Mr Bowe said the PCC would ultimately have to take the items back to their head office for evaluation.

Complaints

The inspection yesterday came amidst complaints from residents about local retailers allegedly engaged in “price gouging”.

One customer at a popular shopping centre said two weeks ago she noticed an area rug in a home furnishing store priced at $72.99. She said she later returned to buy the rug, only to find out the price had jumped to $83.99.

“I said (to the manager) what you all are doing is wrong,” she said. “I came to buy this rug and I’m not going to buy the rug because it went up by $11. Now you’re going to charge me 7.5 per cent on an increased price when the old price was $72.99. I will not patronise any company that I see doing stuff like that because it’s wrong.”

Another resident said when he checked last December, the price for a container of vitamins was being sold by a local pharmacy for less than $13. He said when he went to purchase a bottle yesterday, the price had skyrocketed to over $24.

“It only went up since VAT,” he said. “From December 2014 to January 5, 2015 that’s a big jump. From less than $13 to $24 and odd cents. I think that’s a little expensive. That’s ridiculous man.”

Yesterday Mr Bowe said the PCC was “totally committed” to combatting the problem. He said he would not “sit down idly by and allow the merchants to take advantage of the consumers”.

“Going forward now, if they (are) found in violation they will be prosecuted, because they know better and it’s no excuse to say anything,” he said. “The same way you can go up making a mistake why you can’t you make a mistake and carry the price down. It’ll take us some time to verify what’s going on, but the consumers have legitimate complaints. We will check them out, every complaint. We are duty bound to protect the consumers, and we will do that. The merchants have been having a field day for too long.”

Businesses found in violation of the VAT regulations are subject to prosecution. The penalty for every item that is over-priced is $5,000.

The commission is also investigating complaints of price gouging of items at businesses that are not price-controlled.

Consumers are urged to contact the Price Control Commission at 356-9391-4 to report complaints.

Comments

B_I_D___ 4 years, 10 months ago

Of course the stores don't have all that info...that is all handled at the head office/warehouse location...don't expect the remote store location to have all the customs entries...fool...carry your backside and inquiry down to their head offices and get ALL the answers you want.

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ObserverOfChaos 4 years, 10 months ago

exactly! Another example of a bunch of monkeys jumping around making noise like they are doing something when in reality the aren't. Any one wish a brain cell would know that corporate offices carry all the necessary papers for such things...."dumb and dumber" playing out in our country!

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mangogirl01 4 years, 10 months ago

Why the name calling? Mr. Bowe is/was a hard working government employee and I understand that he came out of retirement to do this. Yes, the job could and should have been given to someone else but he may be training that person(s) to do just that. Keep up the good work Mr. Bowe.

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 10 months ago

I wondered myself why Mr Bowe had to be called out of retirement, it doesn't say anything good about the people currently occupying the office, whether that was the intention or not.

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 10 months ago

"Monkeys"? ....,"Monkeys"????... Mr Bowe has a good name

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chairarranger 4 years, 10 months ago

  • Why is the "apolitical" Bahamas Federation of Retailers not loudly condemning those retailers seen attempting to price gouge customers under cover of the VAT introduction?
  • Why is the BFR not assuring local consumers that this behavior is not indicative of the large majority of honest retailers who are complying with the law and pricing their goods correctly (and tax inclusively)?
  • Are the BFR representatives who tell everyone else to "wake up" in fact asleep on the job themselves?
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chairarranger 4 years, 10 months ago

An extraordinary response you've given.

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chairarranger 4 years, 10 months ago

Breathtaking. So the Bahamas Federation of Retailers condones, and actively ignores, the possible misleading and overcharging of Bahamian customers by a small band of local retailers who are accused (by their own customers) of attempting to hide profiteering under the smokescreen of a new tax introduction? Your commitment to business and to your community is one of "if they can get away with doing it, fine, its not our problem, we're too busy telling people to wake up." Great ethics you've got there as a pseudo-official spokesman for retail.

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chairarranger 4 years, 10 months ago

I have not used the word "enforce" once nor anything remotely like it. You introduced this word.

Speaking out, when given ample opportunity to, against something that is wrong, and that negatively impacts your customers and their perception of your industry and your members, is a fundamental responsibility of an advocate. A lobby group exists to influence. It influences successfully by advocating for a position. You should advocate firmly for treating your customers fairly and advocate firmly against unscrupulous behavior by a small minority of retailers. It would in turn increase the level of respect afforded to your members, your organization and its wider viewpoints, which might otherwise be disregarded.

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TheMadHatter 4 years, 10 months ago

They have been "advocating firmly" for well over a year. They have been pleading with Govt not to allow inclusive pricing because it would be just the tool used by "unscrupulous" retailers

Why can't you understand that point? Have you not read any of the news stories in the past 6 months where they have been rallying against this current mess before it happened?

They have been almost begging and pleading for this not to happen. They have been warning that this is exactly what would happen. They have (correctly) predicted that some "bad" retailers would use this an an excuse to price gouge.

That is why they wanted the prices to remain the same on the shelf - so that consumers could see whether or not they changed.

Instead Govt mandated that ALL PRICES BE CHANGED. So now, it is not possible for anyone to precisely recall what they were a few weeks ago. In some cases, yes. But people just see the prices going up and freak out. That is the problem. That is what was asked not to happen.

The Govt said - change all prices or you will go to jail.

The retailers complied with the law, and now you want to blame them?

Have you ever been to a shop in Florida? A tax being added at the bottom of the receipt is understood by the majority of Bahamians.

Now, exactly what the Govt did not want to happen is happening with sales receipts too. People are just adding the tax at the bottom like in the U.S. Why? Because the rules changed a dozen times in the 3 months prior to end of year and no retailer had enough money to buy 12 computer systems for their one store. So they just used the normal cash register method built into their machines. I'm sure they would be happy to buy a system that complies with the law, but they are unsure if they will be breaking the law again when the Law changes 10 days later.

TheMadHatter

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chairarranger 4 years, 10 months ago

Yes of course I have shopped in Florida, where sales tax is added at the cash register. But we don't have a sales tax. We have a value added tax. And they are not the same thing. Which is why the government has mandated VAT inclusive pricing. Of all 140+ countries in the world that have pure VAT (i.e. a single value added consumption tax model, no variations, no exemptions, no extra or combined sales taxes in addition to the VAT) every one of them has VAT inclusive pricing. Because that is how value added tax works. Its not a tax levied solely on an end purchaser.

And instead of endlessly calling an apple an orange when the apple is now already law, BFR would be wiser to accept that their preference on this particular aspect of the implementation was disregarded. And to achieve the requirements of the law, but still highlight the exact amount per item that is going to the government, all they need is to implement are pricetags by Feb 28 that look like this example:

"Price: $129.00 (includes VAT of $9.00)"

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TheMadHatter 4 years, 10 months ago

I am well aware of the differences between vat and sales tax.

However, your statement at the end of the above comment is JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE of why the retailers are unable to comply with Government's requests. I challenge you to respond here and tell me the exact name of the document that is downloadable from the bahamas.gov.bs/vat website and the exact page number on which appears the statement you made at the end. That page should also give an equivalent example of "how a pricetag should look" in the manner you describe.

After you do that, we can then discuss what date that particular document was last amended to make such statement and when it was loaded to the website for public consumption.

I have been following this VAT thing for many many months in great detail and have attended seminars and NOT ONCE has anyone even suggested that a pricetag should have such information on it.

I am not saying you are wrong. But please quote the document and page number to support your claim.

In the end, even if you have such evidence - there is no guarantee that Govt will not change their minds again in the next 10 days. But that is no excuse not to comply even still - I would agree with that.

Looking forward to your researched response.

TheMadHatter

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chairarranger 4 years, 10 months ago

Sorry but you've clearly misunderstood my example...the pricetag text/form is an example that I have given, it was not a quote from any publication and nor need it be. It took me all of five seconds when the issue of VAT-inclusive pricing was first raised to determine that the quickest way of ensuring compliance, while still clearly highlighting the per item cost of the tax to the prospective instore buyer, was to alter pricetags and shelf prices to this sort of format.

It doesn't take a panel discussion, a committee of government officials, a seminar or a set of downloadable documents to be inventive, and to identify that a pricetag setting out "item cost plus VAT amount = total sale price" achieves the goal of complying with transparent inclusive pricing of products on the shelf. Retailers here are quite capable of thinking for themselves just as millions of retailers across the world in 140+ similar VAT-inclusive pricing countries have thought for themselves, and in many cases adopted labels like this (if they are particularly keen to highlight the VAT/government revenue portion of the final sale amount to the prospective buyer).

There is nothing to prevent a label that has three figures on it, e.g.

"Item: $120.00 + VAT: $9.00 Total price: $129.00"

Imagine the justifiable outrage from business (and the obvious impracticality) if government demanded that pricetags all be identical, in the same format, shape, wording, size etc. There has never been any suggestion, to my knowledge, of government ever contemplating that approach in relation to VAT introduction.

Government doesn't instruct retailers on the exact form of invoices and receipts either. The regulations simply state that your VAT registration numbers must appear, the words "VAT invoice" must be used, and receipts must clearly identify the VAT amount of the final sale, etc etc. How businesses achieve that by design is left to their own discretion and invention, ensuring flexibility for particular circumstances.

To be honest, I might've thought that business groups and retailer associations could have come up with this idea themselves by now, and used their collective experience to recommend to one other and their members this form of price ticketing.

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chairarranger 4 years, 10 months ago

Where do I say BFR/you should "enforce" the law? Please quote me back.

I understand the role of government, business and lobby groups perfectly. If you did perhaps you'd be a little more effective at getting results.

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TruthHurts 4 years, 10 months ago

@chairarranger

What Poster IKalikl is saying is pretty clear. What they had suggested to the government was a 'proactive' measure to escape the very same consequences that plague the public currently. What I find is that most Bahamians are conditioned to jump to making decisions without real thought about what can occur down the road. Then we are 'reactive' to such circumstances that could have been prevented. Time and energy wasted if we had put in the initial effort to brainstorm. Take in others opinions and really come up with effect strategies and/or solutions.

What you're doing CHAIRARRANGER is creating controversy with the original poster because you want him (BFR) to take responsibility for something that is now out of their hands. The entity that put the whole program of inclusive taxation in place aren't they to blame for this debacle? What the hell are you going on with? TAKE A SEAT!

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chairarranger 4 years, 10 months ago

Using your logic there are millions of retailers in 140+ VAT inclusively priced countries in the world who are price gouging on a daily basis for the sole reason that VAT only appears on a final receipt and not on the individual shelf price of products. That is nonsense. VAT-inclusive pricing successfully operates everywhere that has a single rate/type consumption tax model in place.

What i have said is that BFR should accept the reality of a pricing system that has now been adopted, and get on with the business of protecting the reputation of members and advancing other winnable issues that affect members. At no point have I told BFR to take responsibility for individual price gouging retailers - by contrast I have suggested to him that he criticizes it loudly. Lobby groups exist to advance issues and to positively influence future direction. You cannot advance an issue that has already been settled and for which there is zero appetite from either side of politics to change, and you cannot positively influence future direction when you act like an impetuous SHOUTY child who cannot accept that things have not give your way on this particular occasion, so you must attack, name call, abuse (as the poster did in a previous comments thread) and otherwise make yourself and your other views (many of which will have merit) easily ignored in future.

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B_I_D___ 4 years, 10 months ago

Using your logic, let's see how many countries deal with price control regulations...you do realize that VAT inclusive and exclusive pricing are the same? At the end of the day the total at the end of the bill is the same. A $10 item pre-VAT...government tells me I must charge 0.75. VAT INCLUSIVE, I charge you a flat price of 10.75...0.75 goes to government...VAT EXCLUSIVE I charge you 10.00+0.75 VAT...total 10.75...0.75 still goes to government, but you see what the government portion of the tax is...so we go to a tax INCLUSIVE setup...but price control says I can only charge $10.00... Everyone gets pissed off because I charge $10.75...bad karma falls on the business not the government, and you get twits like Bowe jumping up and down like idiots stirring the pot, when, in actual fact...VAT can be charged above the price control pricing schedule...

How many countries in your equation have to deal with the same price control configurations and scenarios...count them please.

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chairarranger 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm not your secretary, so feel free to count them yourself if you somehow think its relevant. Price control has nothing to do with whether VAT is printed on (inclusive) or off (exclusive) the pricetag.

A VAT-inclusive pricetag that states something along the lines of:

Item: $10.00 + VAT: $0.75

Total price: $10.75

...complies with the law, tells customers precisely what portion is going to government, and it makes absolutely no difference whether the original $10.00 item was price controlled or not.

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asiseeit 4 years, 10 months ago

This is what happens when you have an undereducated civil service. They have no idea what they are doing or how to go about doing it. I would bet that 8 out of every 10 government employee's are not qualified to do their job. That goes from the P.M. down to the janitor. The outright ignorance that one encounters day to day in this country is astounding. If the youth are the future of a country, I submit, The Bahamas future is grim at best! The exodus has started.

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moncurcool 4 years, 10 months ago

Here again it shows the stupidity if the so called price control department. They are suppose to know the price of all price controlled items and what the limits should be. They don't need to ask the store manager. Based on what they have set s the maximum of price control, then they just walk in with that number in hand, look at the price on the shelves, and they should be able to tell if the price is above what it should be or not. If the idiots have to wait to get paperwork then who sets the price control. Another ineffective government in action just doing something for the cameras.

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B_I_D___ 4 years, 10 months ago

Pretty simple...but I guess it doesn't make good politics. PGC said he was going to 'look after' people with VAT...now they need to make themselves look like fools by grandstanding around giving interviews, talking crap and making the masses THINK that they are doing something constructive to ease their pain...alas nothing will be done, because nothing has to be done, Super Value's prices are fine (on price controlled items)...but that just don't make good press when people are screaming about the VAT price hike.

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The_Oracle 4 years, 10 months ago

EJ better go try find the law that deals with "Price gouging" While certain items are "profit controlled" under Price control, he has no jurisdiction beyond that. Margins and markups on everything else is costs and market controlled. Seems to me like a bit of political targeting, being that Mr. Roberts has been quite outspoken. PLP nor the FNM like that very much.

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Sickened 4 years, 10 months ago

“Copies of those documents should at least be here,” Mr Bowe said of Super Value. “When head office is dispatching the goods to come to those various stores, when they send it to them, send copies of the documents. Why the store can’t have the documents?

Is this the first time this fool has done an inspection? Certainly he would know if a store is MANDATED to have certain documents on hand or if those documents are kept at head office? Aren't there procedures in place for getting the necessary documents/support AND THEN going to the store shelves to ensure that the pricing is correct? Why pick up an item and guess whether or not it has been priced properly AND make a spectacle of it when you don't have a clue as to what the price should be??? OMG! Too many fools in charge of such a small country.

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B_I_D___ 4 years, 10 months ago

All importation is done at the head office, and all pricing is set on the main computers in the head office and transferred electronically out to the stores. The store manager has little to no control over the setting of the prices...all done at the head office. So why go rattle the chains with the store manager? 'Cause he knows the store manager won't have the answers and he can make a spectacle of it all...if he had turned up at the head office it would have been a cut and dry situation of here are our numbers, here are the price control limits...here is the additional VAT charge...everything is good.

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The_Oracle 4 years, 10 months ago

Retailers will be demonized in this, the Devil is never seen first hand when doing his work. The Government is now banking on Public ignorance, stirring them up, utilizing ignorance they have fostered in Public schools. Retailers better have a plan and get willing to stand together or they will be jailed and put under for no more reason than Politics. This will only get worse and more vitriolic, especially holding press conferences at the scene of the "so called crime" smells like a lynching.

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B_I_D___ 4 years, 10 months ago

People went awfully quiet about this one...all I hear are crickets...

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B_I_D___ 4 years, 10 months ago

The truth does indeed hurt...easier to hurl stones at somebody than apologize.

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 10 months ago

I coming. Where you located? You have eggs?

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TalRussell 4 years, 10 months ago

Comrade yes but infrequently. My one only laying Hen is reaching age were her egg laying days are all but over. So, in coming weeks if you happen buy some fresh chicken from me store and find it bit tough, no worries tis only me old faithful and loyal Henrietta.

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ohdrap4 4 years, 10 months ago

sorry but the reporters are ignorant.

Rugs and vitamins ARE NOT price controlled.

To mix these commentts with the price control guy is wrong and shows these writers did not pass their freshman english in college.

Price of rug high? no problem. Price of vitamin high? No problem. That is why God created amazon. com and the air freighters.

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm ordering a big box of cookies and nuts

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ohdrap4 4 years, 10 months ago

no need to import nuts. the house of assembly has the largest selection of mixed nuts on display.

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MaLambee 4 years, 10 months ago

Brilliant....Lol (regarding the need or not to import nuts

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John 4 years, 10 months ago

VAT registered businesses that bring goods through LPIA may find that not only will they NOT be able to claim back VAT paid at this port of entry but they may also be overcharged on customs duties. First of all many customs officers seem to be unfamiliar with the reduction in customs duty rates, so they are charging travellers the old rates in addition to VAT. A printed list of the tariff reductions seem to be unavsilable and should be at each station. Secondly customs is keeping the customers invoices so unless they have second copies, they have nothing for their records. Finally the customs cash reciept does not show the importers tax identification number, as is required by law so the importer will not be able to claim the VAT back. Since the VAT is calculated on the value of the goods PLUS the duties paid the importer will have to increase prices to recover the excess duty paid plus the VAT that cannot be reclaimed.

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Sickened 4 years, 10 months ago

Excellent points! Our customs receipts not showing the VAT number and breaking the laws of their government?

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The_Oracle 4 years, 10 months ago

"Comrade yes but infrequently. My one only laying Hen is reaching age were her egg laying days are all but over. So, in coming weeks if you happen buy some fresh chicken from me store and find it bit tough, no worries tis only me old faithful and loyal Henrietta."

Hey Tal, what you gotta do is beat the Chicken every morning and cut its feed in half, and it'll lay more eggs. That approach works for Government........

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TalRussell 4 years, 10 months ago

Never would I do such a thing old Henrietta. And, obviously you have never been in back my store's yard, cuz Comrade Big Red will protect his princess until her last cluck, cluck, cluck, CLUCKAAAAAWWWWK. Even when Henrietta ain't in her one her many sexin moods, da protection still there.

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