Mom and pop stores are the most frequent violators of price control rules, according to a senior price inspector with the Consumer Affairs Division.
“We find that most of the bigger stores are in compliance,” said Theodore Curry while taking questions at the Office of the Prime Minister’s weekly press briefing.
“Because of the cost of doing business, their complaint is it’s difficult doing business in the country. So anywhere where they can try and get around the system, they try to do that.”
In October, Prime Minister Philip Davis announced temporary price control measures on wholesalers and retailers, further limiting their markups.
The move was aimed at assisting families in dealing with mounting inflation. Those measures expire on April 17; however, Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis said government is considering some permanent additions to the list.
Curry’s revelation is consistent with warnings from the Retail Grocers Association that smaller stores would struggle the most in coping with the new measures.
“We try to admonish and try to tell them that the law is the law and you have to find other creative and innovative means to make extra money,” Curry said.
“If it’s on the items that we control, you may have to, unfortunately, pass that cost on to somebody else to make up the difference. We don’t like to do that but the reality is that’s what it is.”
Curry said there have been “isolated cases” of price gouging, but nothing of major concern.
The most common complaint has to do with the volatility of the price of eggs.
“Normally there are six inspections done on a yearly,” he said.
“Sometimes with the grocery stores it’s more than that. Normally there are six, seven, eight times that we go to stores to do inspections on a monthly basis.
“If a store is found to be egregiously in breach, or it’s a severe case, we’ll go back the next day to make sure they are coming into compliance with the regulations.
“If a store is found to be in breach, we take note of it, we bring that to their attention and we ask them on the spot to rectify whatever breach has been committed.
“If not, a warning is given and documented. We have them sign acknowledging the breach and we send our complaints to the next level.”