It appears the government does not have power under law to take strong action against business operators who were involved in price gouging following widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Irma on September 6.
Junior Minister of Trade Marlon Penn told BVI News Online that current legislation does not specifically address the issue of price gouging in the territory.
“There is no specific legislation on the books as far as I am aware that speaks to the issue of price gouging. There is something in the old legislation, which we are currently in the process of changing and updating, but currently there is nothing that specifically speaks to gouging of prices,” he said.
Penn however noted that the issue is being addressed in the consumer protection legislation now being drafted.
“We were working on consumer protection legislation, which speaks to price gouging. We were in the final stages of that legislation [when the hurricane happened],” he said.
Penn added that he expects members of the business community to act responsibly despite shortcomings in existing legislation.
“We expect the business community to act responsibly…” he said. “It (price gouging) is a problem; it’s a problem that’s been raised by many persons. We are now doing an assessment to see on what levels it happened.”
Penn added that he expects business operators to access concessions announced by Government instead of piling pressure onto their consumers. “The government has offered concessions to the businesses, and persons have been able to get the duty concessions. I think we have said that businesses that get that level of break; they should take advantage of it and not adversely affect the consumers in the process,” he told BVI News Online.
Head of the Department of Trade Karia Christopher, in the meantime, recently disclosed that 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. She added that she is waiting on Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith to give instructions on how to proceed.
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