Coronavirus: FCCPC raises alarm over unconscionable trade practices, price gouging

By Benjamin Idakwo

Due to cases of coronavirus in some states across the country, Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC, has revealed that certain suppliers and retailers are taking undue advantage of citizens and engaging in unconscionable trade practices with respect to basic safety and protective apparel such as face masks and latex gloves, as well as personal hygiene products like sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes

FCCPC noted that this unusual and inordinate practice of unreasonably increase of price of these products in an indiscriminate manner, on account of the national public health concern (Coronavirus) violates both moral codes and extant law.

In a statement signed by Chief Executive Officer of FCCPC, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, the Commission’s surveillance efforts have further revealed that some reputable pharmacies and department stores are engaging in price gouging and manipulating supplies in a manner that distorts the market, or temporarily restricts availability in order to unreasonably/unfairly increase prices. 

The statement said, “It has come to the attention of the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC that certain suppliers and retailers are taking undue advantage of citizens and engaging in unconscionable trade practices with respect to basic safety and protective apparel such as face masks and latex gloves, as well as personal hygiene products like sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes, because these products are relevant and necessary in preventing infection or spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

“Abusing citizens’ sensitivity, apprehension, anxiety and vulnerability, especially during emergencies that could adversely affect national security is a violation of law. 

“Specifically, S. 17(s) of the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Act, FCCPA prohibits “obnoxious trade practices”, or the “unscrupulous exploitation of consumers”.

“Any conspiracy, combination, agreement or arrangement to unduly limit or manipulate supply, in order to unreasonably enhance price or otherwise restrain competition is a criminal offence under S.108 (1)(b) and (c), FCCPA.

“Any exercise or exploitation of undue pressure in selling or the sale of goods or services, or price manipulation between displayed, and selling price are also serious violations of the FCCPA under Sections 115(3) and 124(1).

“Taking advantage of the possibility of infection by a dangerous communicable disease to control supply, or unilaterally increase prices is predatory as it preys on the desperation of citizens.

“Considering the circumstances and the vital national interest/security this illegal conduct undermines, the Commission intends to strongly enforce the full letter of the law, including the fullest extent of penalties associated with this conduct.” 

The FCCPC however, encouraged consumers to be vigilant and report such unreasonable or arbitrary exploitative price increase or trade practices to the Commission by telephone on 08056002020, or 08056003030, or by email at contact@fccpc.gov.ng.

It further said, “Meanwhile, the Commission is in continuing communication with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC and understands that Nigeria’s readiness to address this discovery of COVID-19 and prevent wide-spread infection is sufficient and effective. 

“Consumers should however proceed in abundance of caution and follow all respiratory and hand-washing hygiene practices that have been published by NCDC, W.H.O, U.S. CDC, LASG, FCCPC and other official and authoritative sources.

“Where described symptoms or adverse events are observed in self or others, please follow the instructions provided and notify the authorities and the telephone numbers also provided in the published materials previously identified.”

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