The Cmpetition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) has warned of stiff penalties against business entities making ‘unjustified’ price increases of essential goods and services.
In a statement made available to Business News, CFTC executive director James Kaphale said given the prevailing stability in inflation, the commission considers price increases unjustifiable and amounts to price gouging.
He said while the commission is aware that Covid-19 has led to a disruption of supply chains in certain product markets, it is unacceptable for enterprises to take advantage of the situation and raise prices unjustifiably.
Kaphale said: “The mere fact that Malawi adopted a liberalised economy does not give enterprises a warrant to overcharge or exploit consumers through unjustifiable price increases.
“In this regard, the commission would like to warn business enterprises to cease and desist from engaging in the practice of price gouging, which is a form of prohibited unconscionable conduct under the Competition and Fair Trading Act and Consumer Protection Act.
“The commission will not hesitate to recommend to the Ministry of Trade to consider revoking trading licences for any enterprises found engaging in price gouging or any other injustices bordering on exploitation.”
Earlier, consumer rights activist John Kapito decried that the market has been hijacked by unscrupulous traders supplying substandard products at unreasonable prices and called on the CFTC to act.
Meanwhile, data from the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) show that the cost of living for a family of six was stable in April at K209 000.
This is despite expectations that food prices, especially maize, would drop in the month owing to the start of the harvesting season in some parts of the country.
CfSC economic governance programmes officer Bernard Mphepo is on record as having said that cost of living was expected to go down in the month due to a decrease in cost of food items; however, it remained high due to an increase in cost of non-food items.
In April, headline inflation went down by 0.2 percentage points to 9.2 percent from 9.4 percent in March, thanks to easing maize prices.