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Market Economy Does Not Encourage Price Control Says Trade Director

Price control in the Turks and Caicos Islands is not beneficial to the people at this time, this according to the Director of Trade for the Department of Trade, Industry and Fair Competition, Lisandra Colley.

Lisandra Colley, Director of Trade for the Department of Trade, Industry and Fair Competition

Responding to the idea of a price control mechanism in the country as a means to eliminate price gouging, Colley pointed out that a market such as the TCI would not be the right fit at this time because if a rival business enters the market, there would be no flexibility for prices to go down, from which the consumer would benefit.

“Generally speaking, in a market economy, especially in a small island-developing country such as the TCI, price control is something that is generally not encouraged because market force, in essence, determines the demand and supply,” she said.

She added: “So, in cases where there is essential goods and services, when price control is used, the prices of certain goods and services would be fixed. When you have prices that are fixed, if market forces now come in it would be hard to now gauge those prices and for prices to be lowered.

“And in this scenario consumers, their welfare will be threatened, because when you fix a price at a certain range, it doesn’t allow for market price to freely slope and to now get consumer goods and services at a lower price that they would desire.

“So, this is something that, from the Department of Trade’s standpoint, we will not necessarily encourage.”

She asserted that in certain cases, government could step in and make fixed prices on certain critical items.

“However, in cases such as the pandemic and crisis situation where certain goods and services might be needed, the government can step in to regulate and monitor certain prices to ensure that businesses are not setting very high prices for goods and services that would affect consumers negatively,” she explained.

She pointed out that the Consumer Protection Ordinance has been in place since 2016 but was amended and put into force in 2020. She said even though there is a law, persons are not aware of their rights as consumers.

“However, we find that persons are not aware of their rights and businesses are not aware of their obligations. And so, what is necessary is that our department has now sought to launch a campaign to educate consumers about the rights that they have and also to educate businesses about the obligation that they have in keeping with the ordinance,” she explained.

“So, in the coming weeks, you will be seeing ads, you will be hearing more. There are brochures that we will be trying to get out into the public to have a public sensitization campaign about the consumer protection ordinance.

“We will start off with the launch as what is known as the ‘Consumer Is King’ campaign, and this will just help to bring out awareness.

“And also in this process, we hope to also analyze the effectiveness of the campaign, because since ordinance is new as well, we anticipate that it will not rectify every single problem, but it will alert us as to what amendments maybe necessary in order to benefit the consumer,” she said.

In the meantime, Minister of Finance, Investment and Trade, Hon. E. Jay Saunders said government would look into setting up a consumer protection agency, so as to look out for the interest of the public. He promised also that other consumer-protection measures would be looked into.

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