Following widespread hoarding of face masks and hand sanitizer, the Federal Government has warned that suppliers and retailers using the excuse of coronavirus case in Nigeria to inflate protective apparel will be prosecuted.
It said sellers of face masks and latex gloves, personal hygiene products like sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes, have increased prices of the products which are necessary in preventing infection or spread of COVID-19.
Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), on Saturday, said the inordinate practice during national public health concern violates both moral codes and extant law.
Babatunde Irukera, Chief Executive Officer, in a statement he signed, noted that abusing citizens’ sensitivity, apprehension, anxiety and vulnerability, especially during emergencies that could adversely affect national security is a violation of law.
It said the commission’s surveillance efforts have revealed that even 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”, he noted.
“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,” he added.
The FCCPC 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,.