Businesses fined for selling goods above MRP, not displaying prices

|     Fadley Faisal     |

TWO businesses were each issued a compound fine of BND500 for selling price-controlled goods above their maximum retail price (MRP), including cooking oil, formulated powdered milk, and rice, while another two businesses were issued warning notices for not displaying price tags during an inspection.

The inspection was conducted in Kampong Tanjung Bunut and Sengkurong by officers from the Department of Competition and Consumer Affairs, Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE), Prime Minister’s Office.

The surprise inspection, led by Deputy Permanent Secretary (Economy and Finance) at the Prime Minister’s Office Pengiran Hajah Siti Nirmala binti Pengiran Mohammad, was aimed at ensuring that controlled goods under the Price Control Act, Chapter 142 – which includes cooking oil, formulated powdered milk and rice – are not sold above the maximum set prices.

During the operation, the JPKE officers also checked that the businesses have clearly and honestly price-tagged their products. This is to ensure price transparency for consumers and that sales activities are conducted in an ethical manner and in compliance with the Price Control (Display of Prices) Act and Cheap Sale Price Regulations 2012.

The setting of maximum prices on a number of essential goods listed under the Price Control Act, Chapter 142, is to safeguard the interests of consumers and to ensure the accessibility and affordability of such goods to all levels of society.

The surprise inspection was led by Deputy Permanent Secretary (Economy and Finance) at the Prime Minister’s Office Pengiran Hajah Siti Nirmala binti Pengiran Mohammad. – JPKE

Not all goods are subject to price controls; the main reason being to promote competition among retailers – businesses are therefore encouraged to offer competitive pricing and to be fair and ethical in acquiring customers.

Under the Price Control Act, Chapter 142, non-compliant businesses can face a compound of not more than BND1,000 after one warning notice. Subsequent offences can result in prosecution and a maximum fine of BND20,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

JPKE officials have reiterated that it is the obligation of suppliers to inform retailers of the current maximum price approved by the department. They have also informed that the updated pricelist of the price-controlled goods which were handed out during the inspection can be accessed through JPKE’s website or the PenggunaBijak/SmartConsumer mobile app. The public may alternatively obtain this list by contacting the Department of Competition and Consumer Affairs directly.

Maximum prices for four types of goods are set by the JPKE: cooking oil, formulated powdered milk, passenger motor vehicles, and clay bricks.

Retailers are free to set the prices of their goods however they wish, provided they do not exceed the maximum approved price. Prices for goods other than those listed in the Price Control Act are determined by the traders themselves through the market forces of supply and demand.

While it is not an offence if a retailer prices its goods more than its competitors, businesses are still encouraged to be fair and ethical in their pricing strategies to cultivate a sustainable and healthy business environment in Brunei Darussalam.

The JPKE advised the public to practise the ‘smart consumer’ concept, for example comparing the prices of goods of different stores and shop around for alternative brands or substitutes, to get the best value for their money.

The department encouraged the public to use the PenggunaBijak/SmartConsumer mobile app which allows them to easily compare the prices of selected daily necessities and price-controlled goods.

The app also provides information on consumer protection-related laws and allows users to share feedback and forward consumer-related complaints and issues to the department. These issues will be forwarded to other authorities or agencies by the department if they fall outside its jurisdiction.

For information, contact JPKE through the PenggunaBijak/SmartConsumer mobile app or the following official channels, telephone: 2230223 (office hours), website www.depd.gov.bn/cad, email aduanpengguna@jpke.gov.bn or consumercomplaint@jpke.gov.bn.