31 business entities fined for overcharging during the lockdown

Consumers are urged to report to the OCP through a toll free number 1214 for any unfair trade practices

The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) imposed fines amounting to Nu 71,214 to 31 business entities in Thimphu for overcharging during the lockdown.

This was following an investigation by the OCP based on consumers’ complaints received through the toll free number 1214.

According to the OCP, it was discovered that vendors and shopkeepers unfairly charged high prices on vegetables and fruits sold in Thimphu Thromde.   

Of the total complaints, 51.4% of the complaints were related to shops selling above the prescribed rates, 24.2% related to exorbitant prices of groceries and 24.2% related to the sale of expired products.

According to the OCP, it received 33 consumer complaints mostly related to shops not complying with the maximum selling price of vegetables.

“Despite the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) issued a notice on January 21, outlining the fixed selling prices of fruits and vegetables during the lockdown, some vendors sold beyond the fixed price, which were found to be unfair and unethical trading practices in violation of the Consumer Protection Act of Bhutan 2021,” states the press release issued by the OCP on January 27.

According to the Act, a person shall not mislead the consumers on the prices of goods and services.

According to the OCP’s press release, it inspected and monitored all types of businesses in Thimphu Thromde, such as grocery stores, fruits and vegetables shops, BOD/LPG dealers and wholesalers operating during the lockdown.

An OCP official said that the vendors were already informed not to take advantage of the current situation and that the OCP will not tolerate any unfair practices during the lockdown. They were also warned about the stern actions that will be taken, including the cancellation of the business license if necessary.

However, a vendor, who was fined for overcharging during the lockdown, said they had to increase the price to cover up their losses.

“Since I deal in perishable goods, some vegetables and fruits get rotten till the time they get here. A few vendors receive less than that of the average weight from the source itself,” he said.

Meanwhile, the OCP urges people to refer to the notification issued by the MoAF on the prices of fruits and vegetables during the lockdown. For other commodities, the prices have been given on the OCP’s website.

Additionally, the MoAF also reminds the people that the shops who would be found overcharging for the first time will be fined and issued a warning letter, while for repeat offenders, the OCP will further review for action including the cancellation of license.

Meanwhile, consumers are also urged to report to the OCP through a toll free number 1214 for any unfair trade practices.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu