Consumers have complained of price hike of daily essentials such as rice, pulse, flour and edible oil when the nationwide lockdown against coronavirus has been in force since March 24. There are complaints that artificial scarcity in the market supply chain has been created to take undue advantages of the lockdown. The violation of market ethics has led to the rise in market price and it is no doubt that general consumers are at the receiving end. Even the suppliers have taken the crisis as a good time to cash in. Moreover, the retailers point out at whole-sellers to justify the cause of price rise and wholesale suppliers point out at industries. Some traders cite the short supply of goods during the crisis and seem busy in clearing their old stock.
Ramita Bista of Imadol, Lalitpur, said these days she could not purchase goods as per her choice and more suppliers were overcharging customers. Prices of noodles, biscuits, foodstuffs, soap and detergent powders have soared after the lockdown. Last week, she had to pay Rs 20 for a packet of noodles against the retail price of Rs 15. Now the price of rice has reached Rs 1,800 per sack for which she had paid Rs 1,600 two months ago. Consumers have no option but to follow the demand of suppliers.
Consumers’ Rights Investigation Forum’s President Madhav Timilsina said prices of vegetables had fallen during the lockdown, but contrary to this, prices of food and fruits had significantly soared. ”The crisis has offered a favourable time for middle-persons to secure undue benefits,” he added, highlighting the need of effective market monitoring by the government to address the problem. As said by Timilsina, consumers are unable to exercise their right to choice during lockdown. There is a high possibility of repacking and old, unbranded and outdated stock for the supply.
Besides, social distancing rules are not being followed in the market as set- limited hours (two hours in morning) have been set by local governments for opening food shops, increasing the risk of infection. Wrongdoings in monitoring are facing action, said the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection. The department has set up a toll free number 1135 to deal with complaints of consumers. Monitoring and action is taking place acting on complaints, said Rabindra Adhikari, Information Officer at the department. Sellers have charged high on essentials saying stock has finished and price of new supplies has increased, he said, adding that suppliers and sellers face action when found to sell essentials overprices. Sellers have complained about timetable set by respective local levels for the market to open during lockdown, questioning why some shops were allowed to open long time.
“Such complaints are being dealt with the help of local administration and local level,” he said. Approximately, 1,055 complaints relating to ‘lack’ of facemasks, food items and cooking gas were recorded through the toll free number since lockdown started, he said, adding that of them, 168 were dealt with. A total of 1,765 people have faced action during the current fiscal year, 2019/20 for different charges. The department collected Rs 15 million in fine since lockdown and Rs 30 million during the FY, 2019/20.