By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Price regulators yesterday renewed warnings to merchants not to exploit COVID-19 and potential Hurricane Isaias to gouge consumers or offload spoiled produce
Danny Sumner, the Price Control Commission (PCC) chairman, told Tribune Business: "The Commission, along with NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency), we are now looking at the situation as it relates to COVID-19 and the approaching tropical storm that should hit The Bahamas in short order.
"We are aware that during this time of the year, normally we see a spiked increase in pricing in these foods stores, and not only in New Providence but also all over these islands. I want to put those retail stores, wholesale and all of the grocery stores, on notice that the price inspectors in New Providence, led Eulamae Gordon and the price inspectors in Grand Bahama, led by Reno Smith, those inspectors will be vigilant in all of these stores making sure the breadbasket items will be held to the price that is stipulated and regulated by the commission."
Mr Sumner added: "Also we have problems during this time of the year as we see increases in batteries, which is bad." That product, though, is not under price control regulations.
He continued, though: "In addition to that we also notice that other food items gradually go up like meats. We will be looking at this, and the determining factor will be that when those inspectors meet in the stores with management, they will make sure consumers are not burdened down with excess pricing.
"It has been going on for quite some tim,e and price inspectors have been repeatedly warning some of the mangers in these stores about the escalating prices."
Referring to the minister of labour's powers of prosecution for those breaching the price control regulations, Mr Sumner said: "Be that as it may, the minister responsible for consumer protection is Dion Foulkes (minister for labour, transportation and local government), and he will not hesitate to prosecute those violators in pricing with regard to the Price Control Act, which is Chapter 339.
"I am urging those inspectors on the Family Islands to make sure they hit these stores with speed, and that any infraction they see that they should forward it to me or to the ministry so that we can deal with these perpetrators."
Mr Sumner continued: "The Bahamian consumers do not need any more burdens as it relates to pricing and so forth. The official warning is that these store owners, retail owners and, of course, convenience stores, please be mindful of your pricing because we are looking at it, and if we find any reason that the prices are not conducive, we will come back to you.
"We have another problem with bad produce being placed in these stores. For example, I go into stores at times and I see bad meat. In recent times I have gone to management in two stores and asked them to remove the meat from the public because the meat was bad and it was contaminated.
"So we also warn these store owners to not sell Bahamians food products, and products that can hurt them and the health of the consumer, so it is important that they put the proper things on the shelving and healthy things for people to consume. We don't want people to get sick after purchasing these things from the store."