By Davion Smith, BVI News Journalist
While the British Virgin Islands await the long-promised consumer protection legislation, residents are being told to sound an alarm, and boycott local businesses that are price gouging.
The call came from Junior Minister for Trade Marlon Penn as well as a resident during a community forum last week. Fresh reports surfaced at the meeting that businesses were still offering goods and services at exorbitant prices, nearly two months after the hurricanes.
The resident, Roxane Toussaint told consumers not to sit and wait quietly until elected officials implement and enforce the relevant consumer protection laws.
“Yes, our representatives have responsibilities but we have a responsibility as citizens of this country and we can’t always sit down and wait for them to put things in place. There are things that we can do as well,” Toussaint said.
“If you come out and say that this person or this company is doing this (price gouging), then we need to band together as a people and decide that we are not going to patronize their businesses. I’m telling you that there is power in community. So it’s good that we brought it forward. It’s good that they’re putting the legislation in place, but we as a community can come together and put pressure on top of these businesses from taking advantage of us.”
Gov’t discusses ‘naming and shaming’
While backing the resident’s call, Penn said government has held talks in relation to the boycott movement.
“One of the things that we’ve discussed is the whole issue of naming and shaming. We need to put them on notice. You cannot take the crisis and take advantage of our people like that,” Penn told residents.
“I agree with Roxane, there is power in the consumer… You need to exercise your power as a consumer along with the support that we’re going to give you as a consumer with legislation.”
Just last week a senior-level officer in the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force disclosed that some car dealerships were among the businesses that are price gouging. The cop had said that while government placed a three-month Customs duty waiver on the importation of vehicles, local dealerships were shipping in new vehicles tax-free and reselling them with duties included in the price.
A number of gas stations and supermarkets were also accused of participating in price gouging since the hurricanes.
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