The Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) is to prosecute four supermarkets and their proprietors in Abuja for alleged arbitrary hike in the price of sanitizers, hand wash liquids, disinfectants and other anti-bacterial hygiene products.
The four supermarkets, which also include their pharmacies as Prince Ebeano Supermarket Limited and its proprietor, David Ojei, and Bakan Gizo Pharmacy & Stores Nigeria Limited, and the representatives, Ray Opia and Luter Irene.
The others are H-Medix Pharmacy & Stores Limited, and the representatives, Sandra Ejekwu and John Oluwagbemiga, as well as Faxx Stores & Trading Limited and the representative, Adogah Ahmed.
In the statement of claim filed before the Federal High Court, Abuja, the commission preferred a six-count charge against the four Supermarkets and their owners.
The charges against them were for violating Section 125 (1) (a) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018 and punishable under Section 155 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2018.
The charges included allegations of “false, misleading, deceptive representation in relation to the price of sanitizers, hand-wash liquids and disinfectants of various existing brands on display at their retail outlets.”
The other charges included exploiting the national public health emergency of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic to engage in price gouging of hand sanitizers and surgical disposable face masks of various existing brands and thereby engaged in the use of undue influence, pressure, unfair tactics and other obnoxious practices in connection with the supply of goods.”
Also, they were charged for conspiracy to unreasonably enhance the price of sanitizers, hand-wash liquids and disinfectants, and make false, incorrect and deceptive representations to consumers in relation to the price of at which hand sanitizers and surgical disposable face masks may be sold or supplied.
The four supermarkets were also charged with supplying hand sanitizers and surgical disposable face masks of various existing brands to consumers at a price that was manifestly unfair, unreasonable and unjust; as well as disobeying without lawful excuse the lawful orders and directives of the commission against such practices.
In the wake of the viral spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Commission issued statements on February 28 and March 24 warning marketers of dire consequences for unreasonable increases in the price of personal hygiene products required by consumers for prevention and against the further spread.
The commission accused Prince Ebeano Supermarket Limited and H-Medix Pharmacy & Stores Ltd of committing the offences between February 28 and March 6, 2020.
FAXX Stores & Trading Ltd was accused of committing the offences between February 1 and March 24, 2020, and Bakan Gizo Pharmacy & Stores Nigeria Ltd February 1 and March 9, 2020.
The commission said the allegations against the accused were discovered following complaints from consumers through various social media channels as well as visits to their Supermarkets and pharmacies by representatives of its Surveillance and Enforcement office.
During the visits, the commission said its officials reviewed their daily sales records, purchase invoices, receipts for the purchase of the items, and sample products.
Early this month, the commission said it observed that certain suppliers and retailers were taking undue advantage of citizens and engaging in unconscionable trade practices over basic safety and protective products necessary in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“This unusual and inordinate practice of unreasonably increasing the price of these products in an indiscriminate manner, on account of the national public health concern (Coronavirus) violates both moral codes and extant law,” the commission said.
“Abusing citizens’ sensitivity, apprehension, anxiety and vulnerability, especially during emergencies that could adversely affect national security is a violation of the law, specifically, Section 17(s) of the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) prohibits “obnoxious trade practices”, or the “unscrupulous exploitation of consumers”.