Price-gouging is violation of law


With more findings of locally transmitted cases of coronavirus in Sittway, we are seeing the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Rakhine State’s Sittway Township has imposed stay-at-home orders and tightened the COVID-19 health guidelines as the number of positive cases is expected to rise. As a consequence, COVID-19 protective items, such as masks, sanitizer and alcohol are trending upwards in Yangon and other towns these days. The Ministry of Commerce issued an executive order on 30th March invoking the Essential Supplies and Services Law, making it illegal to acquire what has been designated as scarce medical supplies, and commodities, and hoarding or reselling them at hugely inflated prices amidst COVID-19 pandemic. The ministry labelled three goods as “important goods”, which include health care equipment for Coronavirus disease prevention, control and treatment, medicines and food. Price-gouging is a violation of unfair or deceptive trade practices law. Price-gouging causes substantial injury to consumers by needlessly increasing the cost of goods and services necessary to treat or prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, making such items scarce for use by the general public.
To respond to the situation, the Ministry of Commerce has worked to stabilize commodity markets related to medicines, medical equipment and household commodities since the outbreak of the disease first occurred in neighbouring China. In a welcome step, the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry has warned the public not to sell three goods, banning those who are speculating in the market by selling products at higher prices than the street market and distribution chains call for. As we all continue to cope with this unprecedented public health crisis, we would like to remind the people to be cautious of unscrupulous businesses or companies that may target and prey on consumers by charging excessively high prices for goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is unlawful to charge excessively high prices for goods and services during a state-declared disaster. Under the Essential Supplies And Services Law, anyone who violates any order issued under section 4 shall, on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term from a minimum of six months to a maximum of three years, and shall also be liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand Kyats. The public is encouraged to report incidents of price-gouging to the authorities concerned.

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