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Unscrupulous business people jacking up prices

Unscrupulous business people jacking up prices


IT HAS BEGUN, some unscrupulous business owners, just one working day into the implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT), have started practicing price gouging.

“We have had reports of people simply marking up their old stocks, there has definitely been a spike in prices,” said Alma Dougan, Manager of the VAT Implementation Unit when SEARCHLIGHT visited her last Wednesday afternoon.{{more}}

Reflecting on the first full day of VAT (May 1st was a public holiday), Dougan, who was in a meeting with Director General of Finance and Planning Maurice Edwards at the time, told SEARCHLIGHT that business owners who are practicing exploitation need to be reminded that there are provisions in the VAT legislation for the unit to intervene if such practices continue.

She said that the office’s phones had been ringing off the hook, a good thing she claims.

“It means that people are aware and the education drive has reaped success, so people are asking questions when they feel they had been wronged,” Dougan said.

Dougan said that the consumers’ diligence is a crucial tool in keeping business owners on their toes.

“Some consumers even went back to businesses for money when they realized that they were unfairly charged,” she said.

She said that consumers were calling about many different things and were seeking clarity on anything suspicious.

Dougan commended the VAT unit’s young staff for the way they had been handling the barrage of calls coming their way.

Edwards said that he too is concerned that some businesses are simply marking up their goods across the board. He also however noted that some stores have empty shelves as they were yet to clear their new stock from the customs.

Meanwhile a small survey of businesses around Kingstown indicated that public relations and diplomacy had to be the watchword when dealing with alert consumers who wanted to ensure that they were not being ripped off.

One supermarket supervisor told SEARCHLIGHT that his business was not prepared as it should have been for VAT and therefore they weren’t prepared to deal with the long list of complaints that they received throughout the day.

Another supervisor said that customers, reacting to the hike in prices cursed the government on one hand for implementing VAT and the supermarket owners on the other for carrying up prices.