…for overcharging consumers with prices not prescribed by Natural Resource Pricing Committee
In response to a complaint filed by the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS), the Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (CCAA) in Bhutan has taken decisive action against a sawmill in Rangjung, Trashigang for charging prices of sawn timbers exceeding the prescribed rates set by the Natural Resource Pricing Committee (NRPC).
DoFPS, in a letter dated February 3, 2021, requested the assistance of the CCAA in monitoring compliance and enforcing the rates established by the NRPC. The NRPC rates had set maximum retail prices for logs, poles, sawn timber, sand, and stone, regardless of their sources or origins.
The incident came to light during a routine market inspection conducted by the CCAA in Trashigang Dzongkhag in February 2023. The inspection revealed that the Sawmill had been selling sawn timber at Nu 460 per/cft, surpassing the NRPC rate for Class A conifers set at Nu 390.28 per/cft since January 2022.
During the inspection, the office of CCAA found out that around 68 buyers are needed to be refunded by the Sawmill. According to the CCAA’s detailed investigation, the excess payment amounted to Nu 69.72 per/cft, and this discrepancy was limited to sawn timber, with other products aligning with the NRPC rates.
The CCAA, with its vigilant monitoring activities, discovered the violation during its nationwide market inspections covering 1755 businesses across 17 dzongkhags in the previous fiscal year. The CCAA not only mandated the repayment of overcharged sums to affected consumers but also issued a stern warning to the Sawmill owner to strictly adhere to the prescribed rates. The reimbursement process has been facilitated, and the CCAA emphasized that any recurrence of such instances may lead to penalties or the revocation of the business license.
To prevent future occurrences, the CCAA outlined its commitment to sustained advocacy activities and regular market inspections. Sawmill operators are obliged to prominently display statutory prices, allowing consumers to cross-verify and ensure that they are billed in accordance with actual prices.
Consumers are encouraged to be aware of the NRPC prescribed rates for wood and its products, sand, and stones. In cases of non-compliance by sawmill operators, the CCAA recommends reporting incidents through the toll-free number.
Meanwhile, the authority remains actively engaged in market monitoring activities, currently covering Gasa, Punakha, Samtse, Wangdue Phodrang, Bumthang, Trongsa, and Zhemgang Dzongkhags. The ongoing efforts aim to ensure transparency and fairness in the business practices of all entities across the country.
Sangay Rabten from Thimphu