Consumers cheated as traders breach govt directive
High profiteering victimises fixed-, low-income groupsShakhawat Hossain
Traders and grocers are violating a government directive of not maximising their profits before Ramadan, putting an extra burden on the low- and fixed-income groups, a market monitoring body and a government agency said.
The Bangladesh Tariff Commission that spotted the violation found that consumers were being cheated as they needed to buy many of the products for prices double the import cost.
Traders are making higher profits despite the existence of the National Consumer Rights Protection Department.
According to a directive of the commerce ministry issued on June 26, consumers are not supposed to pay prices not more than 10 per cent higher the import costs for items such as sugar, edible oil, gram, pulses, garlic, ginger, chili powder, spices, dates and turmeric powder.
The ministry asked the traders not to make more than 1 per cent profit at wholesale and 10 per cent at retail on import costs so that price spiral of goods before Ramadan could be arrested.
Market monitors observed that the government’s move to check goods price spiral had failed as wholesalers and retailers started selling many of the products at much higher prices even before Ramadan.
They said that the government market monitoring was not effective enough, resulting in further volatility in commodity market that has already been rocked by double-digit inflation in the just concluded financial year.
‘Fixed- and low-income groups became victims of ineffective market monitoring,’ the Consumers Association of Bangladesh secretary general, Humayun Kabir, said.
The Bangladesh Tariff Commission chairman, Mozibur Rahman, told New Age on Thursday that the a kilogram imported onion should sell for more than Tk 16.
But the item is selling for Tk 25 a kilogram on the retail market, he said adding that retailers were charging exorbitant prices for dates and gram, the most consumed items in Ramadan.
The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh blamed the
businesses for the abnormal price increase although there was adequate supply and there was no reason for such price increase.
FBCCI director Helal Uddin, also president of the shop owners’ association, said that the observation of the Tariff Commission chair was not correct.
He said that the BTC chairman did consider the rampant under-invoicing of imported items. He said that his association would lodge a protest with the government regarding the BTC chairman’s comments.
The commerce minister, GM Quader, meanwhile on Wednesday, asked the deputy commissioners to take legal action against the traders who are making higher profits. He assured the deputy commissioners of necessary supports for taking legal action against the profit-mongering traders.
The commerce minister admitted that prices of some goods had shot up before Ramadan.
The government has set up the National Consumer Rights Protection Department almost two years ago. Its director general Abul Hossain Miah said that they could not start functioning in full swing for lack of manpower.
The government has enacted the Competition Law 2012 to ensure fair competition on the market so that consumers could buy products at competitive prices. A commission will be set up to implement the law.
But many doubt about the success of the commission after the National Consumer Rights Protection Department had not been able to start functioning fully even two years after its establishment.
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