By Charles Nwaoguji
The Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission continues to monitor and support the national and statewide responses to containing and preventing the spread of COVID-19 and associated developments.
The Commission understands the natural apprehension consumers experience at a time like this. The Commission further notes and welcomes the continuing and progressive measures to contain this public health challenge.
On February 28th, 2020, the Commission published a Release advising against arbitrary, unreasonable, unconscionable, excessive and irrational pricing of critical hygiene products (price gouging). Although many have exercised circumspection and continued to ensure supply and pricing within fair and acceptable ranges, the Commission’s periodic monitoring and reports still show that some suppliers and retailers continue to take undue and opportunistic advantage of citizens by selling these products at inexplicably high and excessive prices; and making unsupported claims about the efficacy of certain medications and or hygiene products.
The Commission is determined to ensure that suppliers and retailers do not manipulate supply to distort the market or promote high prices or engage in excessive pricing of relevant products. The Commission intends to enforce the law with respect to fair competition and consumer protection. We will deploy all available statutory tools to prevent profiteering and exploitation in this inauspicious season.
The Commission urges suppliers, retailers, online shopping platforms, as well as individuals who buy to resell not to charge unreasonable or inflated prices. Violators will be criminally prosecuted where the evidence sufficiently supports same.
The Commission also admonishes consumers to moderate the impulse to making unnecessary or excessive purchases in panic as this promotes gouging, and anxiety. In particular, recent purchases of Chloroquine raise questions of fairness both by suppliers/retailers, and consumers who are insistent on purchasing all available inventory, even when personal needs are inconsistent with that available inventory.
The Commission again advises consumers to avoid large gatherings, including
markets/stores to make needless or non-essential purchases, and to practice the strongest discipline in staying at home and enforcing social distancing measures.