Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, is satisfied that complaints related to pricing during this COVID-19 period are being addressed, and retailers are working to improve their circumstances.
The Minister made this clear on Wednesday as he responded to a query posed by media representatives at the end of a tour of Montrose Supermarket in Christ Church, and Marshall’s Minimart at St. Philip.
Revealing that there had been “around 20 complaints”, he said: “We’ve addressed most of them in terms of making sure that persons understand that they are governed by certain legislations and they have to have labels, so we basically looked at persons following the law in terms of having labels on their products and price tags, and the necessary prices clearly labelled and marked.”
Minister Sutherland said that goods not having price tags; bills not being presented after purchases, and goods not being properly labelled were among the irregularities that the Ministry had seen, and sought to correct.
“We didn’t go to tear down these small businesses because we recognized they were playing a major role, but we just wanted to make sure that commerce was being fair, and that persons were giving the necessary information to ensure good commerce.”
Mr. Sutherland said there was a set time for the retailers to comply with these practices, and Ministry personnel were scheduled to return within the next two weeks to see what changes had been made.
Expressing the hope that everyone would comply, he stated: “I believe they would comply. There is legislation to address matters, but we don’t want to go there with our retailers. This is a Government that likes to bring along people.
“We want to ensure that all are treated fairly, and we give everyone equal opportunity. So, we are not about shutting down shops as a result of what we found. We are about giving them the necessary tools and giving them necessary information so they can improve commerce.”
The Minister further pointed out that whenever the Ministry saw or heard of any incidents of price gouging, these were addressed right away.
“We can’t see everything because you recognize we only have six Trade Standards Officers (at the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs) travelling around and we have hundreds of village shops, mini-marts, supermarkets open. So, once we see any irregularities, or what I call a complaint by a consumer, we have to address it because consumerism is part of commerce, a very integral part of commerce.”
He added that his tours proved there was no shortage of goods in the country, and he was pleased that village shops, mini marts and supermarkets were adequately stocked for the hurricane season, amid the COVID-19 crisis.
He gave kudos to the retailers for following protocol; sanitizing patrons at their entrances; and encouraging them to wear masks.