Belmopan – The Belize government says it is moving to enact a new system to deal with price gouging as it acknowledged that there are reasons behind the increase in prices for commodities here.
“The first is the cost of goods has increased. The second is that the cost of transportation has also increased. Of course, gouging is also present. And the third is with the new order, war in Ukraine and Russia, prices are getting even higher.
“But my department, Supplies Control, has done an exercise, especially in Belize City, clearly there is gouging. That has to be addressed,” said Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise Minister, Jose Abelardo Mai.
He said that the Attorney General’s Office is working on amending the Supplies Control Act and that “we are now moving to ticketable offenses”.
“Going to a store and seeing that a merchant is gouging is unacceptable especially in these difficult times. So instead of taking them to court and going through a lengthy process and then two years later the court rules, that will not be the case.
“Our officers now will walk into a store. Let me tell you what the offenses are? If you walk into a store and the price controlled goods are not itemised; that is an infraction, you are breaking the law. If you go to the store and the corn beef does not have no price on it – that is another violation. If I ask you for your invoices and you do not have it – that is another infraction.
“And all these we are ticketing probably 250-300. But besides that, other than ticketing you, we are closing down your store, you go pay your tickets and when you come and bring the receipts, you will reopen.”
Mai said that the authorities will also make it public so that members of the public know who has been caught gouging.
“It’s up to you then if you want to go and buy there. But I am certain after we do this to the first ten stores, they will fix up because nobody wants to lose customers. But gouging is not allowed, in particular at this time when things are so difficult.”
Mai also said that any establishment that is price gouging is compounding the inflation already being felt and treating Belizean consumers unfairly. He is taking a proposal to Cabinet to go after these merchants. In the meantime, he says any shop that does not have prices of controlled goods listed on the wall is already breaking the law.
“At this moment, looking at the inflation, it is unfair that store owners and wholesalers implement a gouging mechanism. It is unfair to the people of this country. To anybody, across the world.
“So we have proposed to Cabinet in a cabinet paper that we must make amendments to the supplies control act, to implement and to ensure that gouging does not take place,” he added. (CMC)