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Published On: Mon, Mar 2nd, 2020

Covid-19: FG to prosecute merchants hiking prices of protective apparel

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By Miriam Humbe

The Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has frowned at the activities of certain suppliers and retailers who are taking undue advantage of citizens and engaging in unconscionable trade practices regarding 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).
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 encourages 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 atcontact@fccpc.gov.ng.
A statement signed during the weekend by FCCPC’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Babatunde Irukera said this unusual and inordinate practice of unreasonably increasing the price of these products in an indiscriminate manner, on account of the national public health concern (Coronavirus) violates both moral codes and extant law.
Irukera said: “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”.
“The Commission’s surveillance efforts have revealed that some otherwise 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. 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.
“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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