By Davion Smith, BVI News Online Journalist
The Department of Trade said undercover surveillance of local businesses has found some gas stations and one major supermarket to be the main culprits that have been price gouging since the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The department’s director, Karia Christopher, said she is waiting for instruction from Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith on how to proceed in relation to the businesses caught.
She declined to publicly name the offenders.
“I’m not able to say the exact supermarket. I’ll leave that for the boss (Premier) to say, but we only found one large supermarket that had excessive price gouging for necessity items like water, sanitary stuff, [and] basic stuff,” Christopher explained.
“What we can say comfortably is that there is an issue with the gas stations for sure. Our research has shown that gas prices have gone up approximately $3.30 per gallon as opposed to let’s say last month,” Christopher claimed during a meeting with residents in the Third Electoral District yesterday, September 27.
The trade director noted that her department identified the offending businesses by monitoring them covertly.
“We go almost as secret shoppers to go and check to see; that’s how it is; we don’t go looking like Trade [Department representatives]. We go as customers and so we try to make sure that we speak for the community because it’s sad if persons want to basically profit off of a very destructive situation like this.”
“Once the premier tells us what he wants us to do, then we will be guided by his directives,” Christopher added.
She, in the meantime, said most other businesses have dropped their prices back to market value, adding that her department will continue to monitor shopping prices.