Shop owners will be arrested for price gouging: Treasurer

Essential goods are now subject to strict price controls, says Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey.

“Price gouging will not be tolerated in this time of crisis,” he stated.

“The Marape-Steven government has gazetted powers to police to arrest shop owners breaching these guidelines. Police will also arrest people who are exploiting this situation by looting shops. We can deal with this crisis by working together.

“In times of emergency, some people can panic. Some shop owners can panic and lift prices to increase their cash flows in a time of great uncertainty. Some people claim anger at price increases as a reason to loot shops.

“Let me be clear – both these responses are wrong. Price gouging is wrong. Looting is wrong. They are both against the public interest. Both will be dealt with severely under the law.

“Working with the emergency powers available under the Price Regulation Act Chapter 320, I have agreed with the Commissioner of the Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC) to have strict price controls over essential goods. These goods cover key health, food and transport items. The details of goods covered are listed below.

“This declaration under the act has been gazetted today and applies from the date of the emergency announcement (22 March).

“Police stations throughout the country have been informed that any shop owner or person who fails to comply with the emergency order is guilty of an offence. If prosecuted summarily, there can be a fine of up to K50,000 and up to 6 months in prison. If there is a formal prosecution, there can be a fine of up to K100,000 and up to 2 years in prison. Summary prosecution will be based on decisions by the ICCC working with the controller of the State Emergency.

“The Marape-Steven government will not tolerate anyone who tries to exploit this emergency. Our police will immediately prosecute. We ask everyone to be responsible.

“Shop owners – put in place all necessary hygiene requirements. You have been given the power to ration goods so people do not buy too much. You are not allowed to increase prices by any more than 5 percent.

“Buyers – follow all hygiene requirements. Do not panic buy – it will take some time for medical and food supply chains to fill all orders. Accept limits on the availability of goods. Accept that some costs may go up as transport and other costs may go up. But there is a maximum price increase of just 5 percent on essential goods – so something that used to cost K1 at the date of the emergency declaration on 22 March cannot be increased in cost above K1.05. 

“In the next few days, I am working to be in a position to announce declines in some key food and health items as the Kina has appreciated against most currencies over the last two weeks, which is lowering the cost of imported goods.

“The Marape-Steven government is proactive, responsive, protecting our community in a balanced way using the full force of the law. Part of our resilient national response to this pandemic.”

Price-controlled goods and services

(a)           Rice (all brands);

(b)          Flour (all brands);

(c)           Sugar (all brands);

(d)          Baby Formula (all brands);

(e)          Laundry bar soap (Klina, Waswas and all other similar brands);

(f)           Fuel (those not price controlled such as liquefied petroleum gas [LPG], zoom and aviation fuel);

(g)           Household battery (all brands);

(h)          Matches (all brands);

(i)            Hand sanitiser;

(j)           Disposable surgical masks;

(k)           Latex gloves;

(l)            Bottled water;

(m)         Cooking oil (all brands);

(n)          Tinned fish (all brands);

(o)          Tinned meat (Ox & Palm and all similar brands)

(p)          Noodles (Maggie 2 minute noodles and Indomie brands);

(q)          Biscuits (Snax, Wopa, Em Nau, Toti, Beef Cracker);

(r)           Tea bags (all brands);

(s)           Household bleach (all brands);

(t)           Toilet rolls/tissues (all brands); and

(u)          Air fares (domestic and international)

In This Declaration:

(a) Any changes to the prices of any of the items in this declaration must only be within positive five percent (+5%). Price gouging is an unfair market practice which is not in the interest of consumers;

(b) Shops must implement management decisions to consciously ration goods and services under this declaration. A family can only purchase a certain quantity of an item under this declaration, and no more or no less based on the shop's rationing policy. All shops have a moral responsibility towards all consumers during this state of emergency;

(c) The manager and the supervisor of any shop or business house found to be non-compliant of this declaration will be prosecuted by the Commission, with the assistance of the Controller of the State of Emergency; and

(d) This emergency declaration shall come into effect retrospective on and from 23rd March, 2020, and remain in force until the period of state of emergency is declared ended by Parliament.

Press release