James Emejo in Abuja
The Director General/Chief Executive, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr. Babatunde Irukera, has disclosed that online retailer, JUMIA Nigeria, has delisted 390 products belonging to 168 sellers of hand sanitisers and face masks from its platform, following a warning issued by the council to vendors engaged in price gouging and arbitrary increases in prices of protective and hygiene products in the wake of the recent outbreak of Coronavirus.
He said the Chairperson, Nigeria and Head of Institutional Affairs, Jumia Group, Juliet Anammah, had conveyed its action to FCCPC following the latter’s allegations that some sellers arbitrarily manipulated prices of hygiene products to undermine consumers.
Irukera had recently issued a statement vowing to invoke relevant sections of its establishment act to prosecute pharmaceutical companies which take undue advantage of consumers following the recent outbreak and spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) disease.
Specifically, he said certain suppliers and retailers are currently taking undue advantage of citizens and engaging in unconscionable trade practices with respect to basic safety and protective apparel including as face masks and latex gloves, as well as personal hygiene products namely sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes as these products are relevant and necessary in preventing infection or spread of COVID-19.
In a statement, he said:”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.
He said:”Abusing citizens’ sensitivity, apprehension, anxiety and vulnerability, especially during emergencies that could adversely affect national security is a violation of law. Specifically, S. 17(s) of the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) prohibits “obnoxious trade practices”, or the “unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.”
The FCCPC boss further stated that the commission’s surveillance efforts had revealed that some otherwise reputable pharmacies and department stores are engaging in price gouging and manipulating supplies in a manner that distorts the market, or temporarily restricts availability in order to unreasonably/unfairly increase prices.
“Any conspiracy, combination, agreement or arrangement to unduly limit or manipulate supply, in order to unreasonably enhance price or otherwise restrain competition is a criminal offence under S.108(1)(b) and (c), FCCPA. Any exercise or exploitation of undue pressure in selling or the sale of goods or services, or price manipulation between displayed, and selling price are also serious violations of the FCCPA under Sections 115(3) and 124(1),” he said.
According to him, taking advantage of the possibility of infection by a dangerous communicable disease to control supply, or unilaterally increase prices is predatory as it preys on the desperation of citizens.
He said considering the circumstances and the vital national interest/security this illegal conduct undermines, the Commission intended to strongly enforce the full letter of the law, including the fullest extent of penalties associated with this conduct.
However, Jumia said it took the decision to delist the products following the council’s complaint which had been investigated.
According to the online market giant:”390 products belonging to 168 sellers for sanitisers and face masks have been delisted. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing process as sellers can relist products. Thus, we will be doing hourly checks and cleanup if necessary. We are manually selecting now only SKUs with the best prices to be listed.”