The great festival is approaching soon. People are busy purchasing various kinds of goods, including everyday essentials and clothes to celebrate festival with enjoy. Meantime, the price of goods has skyrocketed. Consumers in the festival period have been compelled to pay more prices for goods. Every year, the price of goods goes up in the festival period as the traders tend to cash in on people’ compulsion. The traders become more active to increase the prices of goods artificially. Besides, they also sell unhealthy foods and clothes on the ‘sale’ in the name of clearing the stock. But they have the only goal to cheat the consumers.
The government also intensified market monitoring to control the artificial price hike of goods and the sale of inedible goods in the market. The government bodies also try to improve the supply system this season.
On this backdrop, Yogendra Gauchan, Director General of Department Of Commerce, Supply and Consumers Protection (DoCSCP), Madhav Timalsina, president of Consumer Rights Investigation Forum, and Raj Kumar Shrestha, President of the Nepal Retailers’ Association, spoke on market monitoring and improved supply system during the weekly Gorkhapatra Sambad. Excerpts:
Cheatings is high in festive season :Gauchan
The department has intensified market monitoring activities in the eve of festival. It is our routine work. The issue of price hikes, quality and measurement is raised more powerfully in the festival period than in the normal period. Chances of cheating the consumers by the traders are high in the festival period. Traders become more active to hike the prices of goods of high demands artificially. Considering this, the government intensifies monitoring activities in the festival period.
We have strategies to conduct regular and surprise monitoring. Under the surprise monitoring, the monitoring officer will go in the field without informing even the monitoring team and the targeted spots. The department has taken action against all those who were found cheating the consumers.
Besides, another strategy of monitoring by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) as CIB and customers has been adopted. However, the department has not yet implemented this strategy. But we can adopt this model if required as the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies has suggested applying this strategy of monitoring as well.
The natural price hike is beyond of our grip. The growing exchange rate of the US dollar and other external factors are contributing to the increase in the price of goods. It is natural. The transportation problem and natural disasters also contribute to the price hikes of the perishable items like vegetables.
With the tightened quarantine check by Nepali side along Nepal-India border entry points, import of goats has almost stopped, which has led to an increase in the meat price in the Kathmandu Valley. Meat price has increased to Rs. 1,300 to Rs. 1,400 per kg from Rs. 900 to Rs. 1,000 per kg. We inspected the Khashi Bazaar of Kalanki after meat price went up unnaturally. After the inspection, the price of meat has dropped to Rs. 1,200 to Rs. 1,250 per kg.
We are effortful manage internal market of goats to meet the demand of meat in the valley. The goat traders have been spreading rumour that the price of goat meat will reach Rs. 2,000 per kilogram. We are requesting them to collect goats from various parts of the country and supply them to the Kathmandu Valley. There are sufficient goats in the rural areas but it is challenging to bring them to the market, especially in the valley. The government is dedicated to control the artificial price hike of meat. Around 200 goats were imported from India a week ago to ensure smooth supply of goats in the market.
Difficult in monitoring
With the federal structure, the state and local governments are responsible to monitor the market and ensure smooth supply of essential goods in their territory. But they have not formulated acts as per the provision of the Consumer Protection Act 2075 and are unable to show their presence in monitoring.
Principally, the DoCSCP has allowed them to work as a unit of federal government to monitor the wholesalers, big department stores, industries, the importers, distributors and foreign trade. The state and local governments have to monitor retailers, footpath business, those running business in carts, fish and meat shops. But they have not done this.
In such a situation, the department has been conducting surprise monitoring in retail shops based on the information and grievances received from the consumers.
The problem of price hike is mostly seen in clothes items, dried foods, vegetables and water businesses which are not registered. The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies has directed the concerned ministers of the States, representatives of municipalities and metropolitan cities to intensify the market monitoring and ease supply of essential goods.
I have also directed my officers and representatives of the municipalities to focus on retailers, meat shops, vegetable shops where the price has increased significantly.
Market monitoring and market management will not be effective until and unless the consumers themselves become aware. The consumers have to become aware themselves and inform the concerned bodies if they are cheated by the traders. The department is also facing problems in market monitoring due to lack of required manpower.
The department is also conducting the awareness generating campaign. It is conducted by the monitoring teams by inviting journalists, consumer rights activists and representatives of the security bodies. We do not let anyone leak pre-information about the places where our team is going to inspect. The Act has a provision to fine anyone who leaks such information.
The traders obstruct monitoring as they have a fear to show the bills of purchase and sales to the monitoring team. When the inspection team reached their shops, they either close their shops or obstruct monitoring process.
Due to under invoice, the price of many goods seems higher by 500 to 1,000 per cent. The traditional phycology of the traders is that all things are good which they have done. The poor quality goods are dumping in Nepal as the importers are encouraged to import only to earn profit.
The government has started tightening quarantine and lab test at the border to encourage the farmers to increase production. This step of the government will ultimately help the farmers and nation make the county self-reliant in these products even the consumers have to pay more prices for a short time. The anarchical activities exist in market and it will take time to control them.
The price of goods is determined based on bargaining due to lack of price list. The retailers do not display the price list of the essential goods. The manufacturing companies do not maintain the market price of goods. In this situation, the consumers get cheated. The campaign of the DSMPC is to compel the retailers to display price list and issue bills to the buyers. If the traders display the price list, the consumers can compare the prices and buy cheapest ones.
On the spot action
The Consumers Protection Act 2017 established the Department as a semi-judicial institution. The present act has vested the rights to the director general of the department to punish the wrongdoers. The monitoring directors deployed by the department can charge fines ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 300,000 on the spots based on the crimes committed.
Last week, the department inspected around 23 shops, including 16 shops of Durbar Marg. Similarly, we raided 18 shops of Civil Mal and fined 9 shops. We fined ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 50,000. We inspected various sector, including Panipuri stalls, furniture and furnishing, catering business, marble show rooms, beauty parlor and cement. They have improved their business after our inspection.
In order to provide relief to the consumers and control the market price, the public enterprises are operating fair price shops at 73 places across the country. This year, we have managed to open the fair price shops in remote areas. As per our analysis, an average price of per kilogram of sugar will not be more than Rs. 78 to Rs. 80. The Salt Trading Corporation is selling a kilogram of sugar at Rs. 72.
Now, the super markets are selling sugar at Rs. 71. Some retailers may be selling sugar up to Rs. 90 per kilogram. We will take action against them.
Black marketing exists : Timilsina
In my opinion, the government and private sector both are responsible for price fluctuation in the festive times. Every year, the consumers have to pay high for poor quality products. And the government seems helpless to control this.
The consumers are cheated because retail business in which 70 per cent of the consumers have access is not standardised. They neither have purchase bills nor maintain other basic business standards like presenting price catalogue, labelling and form registration.
They neither have product purchase bills nor maintain price list of their products in their shops. Not only this, the retailers even do not care on the quality of the products they display for selling. In such case if they have to face market monitoring authorities, they shut down their shops.
In this sense, the retailers or the business firms are mostly responsible for the cheating. Black marketing is there.
As the government presence in the form regulator or monitoring team is weaker in business firms the consumers often get cheated. Pricing and quality controlling mechanism is also inefficient to maintain standard in products.
Another thing is that, multiple layers of distributing channels are being operated on their own which results in price fluctuations. Consumer’s right protection act has several loopholes, which needs amendment. The government has also failed to draft bills and policy as required by the act. Lack of policy draft has left the market free in determining the price and quality.
Mostly, there price hike is common in clothes, spices, dry nuts and others in festive time every year. There is under invoice, wholesaler/importers or business forms are responsible for this. Big corporate houses are stronger than the government. There is cheating in the name of discount. Markets like Bhrikutimandap, Bishnumati, and Kalanki need supervision. There are huge businesses but they are hardly monitored.
We as a pressure group participate in accidental and regular market monitoring tasks when the Department of Commerce asks us for that. Supervision from our side is always unbiased, balanced and accountable.
I also think that the government is equally responsible for price variation because it is unable to draft policies, adjust prices and maintain quality and quantity.
The government is also not implementing its policies properly. The parliamentary committee on consumer rights protection seems unaware about this. Ultimately, the country is becoming the best dumping sites for all multinational companies.
Apart from this, transportation sector is another sector which suffers anarchism in festive times. Existing laws do not recognise local bodies and states but there is cheating everywhere.
Retailer’s business at risk : Shrestha
Price hike in the festive time is just a human psychology, consumers and government authorities think it. In reality there is not such hike, we can check fact seats of last several years. But yes, inflation rate has increased in our markets in its regular speed. Products are expensive because exchange rate has increased.
Retailers’ business is in risk because big marts, shopping complexes provide integrated services under a single roof in a reasonable rate maintaining better environment. Costumers easily get quality products at a reasonable rate staying in better environment now-a-days which has been a direct challenge to the retailers like us. The existence of retailer business is now in a critical condition like a patient in an ICU of a hospital. Like the patient, it needs special treatment for survival. The government should treat well for the betterment of retailer market. Retailers are blamed as black-marketers. Both the consumers and government officials always make a target on us, its’ not fair.
Millions of retailers involve in their business may have resorted to fair or unfair attempts to make profit. But it does not mean that every retailer engages in black-marketing. Fair regulation, monitoring and facilitation are also needed on managing the market. From our side, the NRA is initiating for generating awareness among the retailers, interactions are made on maintaining business standard. However, standardising retail business is not displacing from the business. Retail business should be given continuity to develop entrepreneurship in the country. Providing self-employment plays vital roles in job creation which has great impact on any business chain.
A bitter fact we have to face daily is of under invoicing. The wholesalers, big business forms or importers do not give us bills on its actual price. For example, we purchase any product in Rs.70 per kg but get bill showing its Rs.60 or 65 per kg. Trapped in such a situation, how can the retailers cooperate with the monitoring authorities? However, the retailers have never obstructed the market monitoring units. They have cooperated with the department of commerce for proper regulation.
The NRA is committed to improvements on our side and also assure for quality service at customers doorstep. The NRA will focus on quality and standards in retail business by generating awareness.
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