Be on the lookout for price gouging
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Head of the Rupununi Chamber Commerce and Industry, David Gajie
Head of the Rupununi Chamber Commerce and Industry, David Gajie

-PSC Chairman tells shoppers ahead of Christmas season

WHILE emphasising that the business community has a responsibility to ensure that there is an adequate supply of goods and services for the upcoming Christmas season, Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Paul Cheong, is urging shoppers to keep their eyes open for price gouging.

Cheong, in addressing the issue during an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Sunday, said that pricing wouldn’t be an issue if there is adequate supply.

“We operate in a free-market system … but once there is sufficient supply you won’t have problems with pricing,” he said.

Price gouging occurs when wholesalers, retailers and others take advantage of the spikes in demand for goods and services and charge consumers exorbitant prices.

Cheong noted that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine resulted in unstable markets. As the world slowly recovers, an adequate supply of goods is needed to prevent price gouging on the markets.

Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Director, Richard Rambarran

“Since COVID, a lot of disruptions would have happened in the markets and after COVID we had the Ukraine war,” he said.

Cheong advised that as one of the busiest seasons — Christmas – approaches, businesses should ensure that their supplies are sufficient to meet the demand.

He used the opportunity to warn consumers to look out for price gouging.

While Guyana has an entity that is responsible for ensuring that consumers are not exploited, there is no legislation that prevents price gouging.

The various chambers of commerce that represent the interest of the business community, also pay keen attention to the rights of the consumer.

Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Paul Cheong

One such organisation is the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

Its director, Richard Rambarran told this publication that GCCI members follow a strict mandate that promotes consumer rights.

“The chambers of commerce, for example, has a code of conduct members have to abide by… that promotes strong consumer rights,” he said.

However, he noted that there is still a greater need for awareness on the consumer rights that exist under the country’s Consumers Affairs Act.

“I think information is extremely important. Consumers [must] ensure that they are well informed and enterprises should ensure that they follow the law by displaying prices properly on the items in a visible location,” he said adding, “The law does provide for a lot of protection, but we need to make some of this information public.”

A shopper checks the carpets on display at a Regent Street stall (Carl Croker photo)

Also speaking to this publication was head of the Rupununi Chamber Commerce and Industry, David Gajie, who explained that increased prices for some goods is unavoidable.

“There are some businesses that would increase their prices unscrupulously. There are some where other factors cause them to increase their prices. The cost of electricity in Lethem, for example, is very high, so you would find a person that [sic] is doing frozen items …they might have to increase their prices,” Gajie said.

However, as an organisation RCCI remains impartial when it comes to consumers’ rights.

“The most we can do is encourage our membership and the general business community not do to that [price gouging],” he said further adding, “You know a business is generally you buy something you add on a mark and then you sell it. Most businesses would buy from a wholesaler. The only way that retailer would increase their price is if that wholesaler increases their price.”

He stressed that businesses must not increase their prices in a bid to exploit consumers.

“Our role is to encourage those shops and stores not to raise their prices without having a genuine reason to do so and that is if their acquisition cost increases,” he added.

Over the past two years, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government has implemented a number of measures to ease cost-of-living pressures which have been influenced by the global rise in commodity prices.

Aside from sector-specific measures, the government since taking office in 2020, has also introduced several measures to put more disposable income into the pockets of Guyanese.

From the outset, Value Added Tax (VAT) was removed from water and electricity. This was a burdensome measure placed on the backs of Guyanese by the former coalition administration.

There has also been an increase in old-age pension and public assistance.

Further, government has reinstated the “Because We Care” cash grant and school uniform cash grant which ensures that each child in public and private schools receives money each year. This year, the sum was increased to $30,000. The amount is likely to increase each year.

Every household in the hinterland has received a $25,000 one-off cash grant; fisherfolk have started to receive a one-off $150,000 grant, and farmers will receive $1 billion in fertiliser.

There were several other initiatives which targeted other categories including sugar workers and sweeper/cleaners.

Excise tax on fuel and diesel was slashed to zero, VAT was removed from agricultural inputs and gas prices at the pump were reduced,

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