Friday, March 17, 2023
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRICE control inspectors have found that “mom and pop stores” are the biggest violators of price control regulations, according to senior inspector Theodore Curry yesterday.
Mr Curry told reporters during a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister that some of the complaints stated by violators is that “it’s difficult doing business in the country”.
However, he said inspectors have sent out warnings, telling store owners “the law is the law”.
When asked if grocery retailers have been compliant with the expanded price control list, he said they have been “for the most part”.
“Unfortunately, it’s the mom and pop stores or the stores you call Over-the-Hill,” Mr Curry added. “We find that most of the biggest stores and I don’t want to call any names but the bigger ones, they are in compliance okay, because of the cost of doing business and I won’t get too much into that.
“But some people, their complaint is it’s difficult doing business in the country so anywhere where they can try and get around the system, they tried to do that. But we try to admonish and try to tell them that hey, the law is the law (and) you have to find other creative, innovative means to make extra money.
“If it’s on the items that we control, you may have to unfortunately pass that cost on to something else to make up the difference. We don’t like to do that. But the reality is that’s what it is.”
Meanwhile, Rex Adderley, head of the Consumer Affairs Department (Price Control Unit), said the body is now looking to tighten penalties for those found in violation.
“Presently, we are sitting now with the board subcommittee looking at the Price Control Act and the Rent Control Act and seeing how we can up those fines and imprisonment terms in regard to infractions but presently, I think that the fines are $5,000 for each infraction or term not exceeding six months for each infraction,” he added.
“It’s becoming evident now that we may have to up that so it could be much clearer.”
With respect to price gouging complaints, officials admitted that there have been isolated cases, but said it was nothing to be overly concerned about.
“Just recently, the department has acquired nine additional inspectors in New Providence,” Mr Adderley said.
“We are seeking now to look at a full picture of the whole Bahamas and look at the islands that require inspectors and those that don’t have inspectors, we want to hire inspectors in those areas.”
He also highlighted Abaco as one of their priority islands for increasing manpower, saying “we are trying to get at least two price inspectors there”.
Back in December, several Abaco residents expressed frustration over the “absurd” prices of food in grocery stores on the island.
He continued: “We have had calls come in from Family Islands and, like I said, we are working on trying to get these additional price inspectors in these islands so we can start some work, especially islands in the southern part of the country.
“For instance, Exuma doesn’t have one at all and Long Island doesn’t have any at all.”
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