The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has frowned at the arbitrary increase in the prices of protective face masks and latex gloves by suppliers and retailers of the products.
A statement by Babatunde Irukera, the Chief Executive Officer of the commission, in Abuja on Saturday described the practice as a violation of both moral codes and extant laws.
Irukera explained that suppliers and retailers were exploiting the national public health concern caused by the coronavirus outbreak to make gains.
According to him, considering the circumstances and the vital national interest/security this illegal conduct undermines, the commission said it intends to strongly enforce the full letter of the law, including the fullest extent of penalties associated with the conduct.
He regretted that some reputable pharmacies and department stores were engaged in the unwholesome practice to distort the market, or temporarily restricts availability in order to unreasonably increase prices.
Irukera said: “It has come to the attention of the FCCPC that certain suppliers and retailers are taking undue advantage of citizens and engaging in unconscionable trade practices with respect to basic safety and protective apparel.
“They include face masks and latex gloves, as well as personal hygiene products like sanitisers and anti-bacterial wipes, because these products are relevant and necessary in preventing infection or spread of corona virus (COVID-19).
“Abusing citizens’ sensitivity, apprehension, anxiety and vulnerability, especially during emergencies that could adversely affect national security is a violation of law.
“Specifically, section 17(s) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) prohibits ‘obnoxious trade practices’, or the ‘unscrupulous exploitation of consumers’.
“Any conspiracy, combination, agreement or arrangement to unduly limit or manipulate supply, in order to unreasonably enhance price or otherwise restrain competition is a criminal offence under section 108 (1)(b) and (c), FCCPA.
“Any exercise or exploitation of undue pressure in selling or the sale of goods or services, or price manipulation between displayed, and selling price are also serious violations of the FCCPA under sections 115(3) and 124(1).
“Taking advantage of the possibility of infection by a dangerous communicable disease to control supply, or unilaterally increase prices is predatory as it preys on the desperation of citizens.”
Irukera advised consumers to be vigilant and report such unreasonable or arbitrary exploitative price increase or trade practices to the commission by telephone on 08056002020 or 08056003030, or by email at [email protected]
The chief executive officer also advised consumers to proceed in abundance of caution and follow all respiratory and hand-washing hygiene practices that had been published by the World Health organisation and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, among others.