By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive yesterday said no storm ‘price gouging’ allegations had been brought to it, and added: “We hope it stays that way.”
Edison Sumner told Tribune Business the Chamber was “keeping a watchful eye” on the situation as consumers wrapped-up their pre-Hurricane Irma preparations, but said there was nothing yet to suggest merchants were exploiting the storm.
“No specific instances have been brought to our attention,” he said. “We’ve had no direct complaints from anyone who feels they’ve been gouged, or instances where they saw merchants gouging someone.
“We are keeping a watchful eye on that. We continue to advise businesses to maintain ethical practices, and not to take advantage of the situation. Fortunately, to-date, we’ve not had any complaints about companies engaging in price gouging, and we hope it stays that way.”
The Chamber is working closely with the Consumer Protection Commission and Price Control Commission in a bid to prevent any unscrupulous retailers and suppliers from exploiting the pre0-Irma demand surge for construction materials, foods and other essentials.
Leonard Sands, the Bahamian Contractors Association’s (BCA) president, yesterday said none of his members had complained about potential ‘price gouging’ by materials suppliers.
Crediting the Government’s tough stance on this, Mr Sands told Tribune Business: “I think that because the Prime Minister stepped in and took a strong position on price gouging we’ve not had any instances of persons saying ‘the price of plywood is ‘x’, and now it’s ‘y’.
“If it’s happening, it’s not happening at significant places, because I’ve not heard anything so far.”
Mr Sumner, meanwhile, said the Chamber, Rotary Bahamas and other partners were remobilising the ‘Rebuild Bahamas’ initiative launched in the wake of the massive damage Hurricane Joaquin inflicted on the southern Family Islands in October 2015.
Rebuild Bahamas provided vital funding to small and medium-sized enterprises to help reconstruct their businesses in Joaquin’s wake, and Mr Sumner said: “It’s never really died.
“We’re looking to mobilise again, and will put mechanisms in place in the next few days to bring these measures to bear on the business community.”
Mr Sumner added that the Chamber and its partners wanted to be in position to “move quickly to offer assistance to those most in need of it once Irma has passed”.
“Once the storm has passed, there will be a need for Corporate Bahamas, civil society and other groups to provide assistance,” he said.