Rogue retailers risk losing operating permits

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU – The ministry of trade and industry has threatened to revoke operating permits of retailers charging “predatory prices”. Reports of retailers taking advantage of consumers by increasing prices of basic foodstuffs have inundated officials with the ministry yesterday quickly moving to set up the following hotlines for the public to report rogue retailers: 59199797, 62000375 and 59536238, according to a press release issued yesterday morning. The move comes after some Chinese retailers and wholesalers have allegedly increased the prices of groceries including basics such as mealie-meal and flour during the lockdown arguing their supplier, Lesotho Flour Mills, had increased its prices.

A grocery shop owner in Maseru, who chose to remain anonymous, said all mealie-meal and flour prices had increased by M10 or more which is why he had also increased prices for his merchandise. The increase in prices comes despite the prime minister warning retailers not to take advantage of the lockdown and increase prices. He confirmed mealie-meal, flour and gas are some of the items whose prices had increased. Lesotho Flour Mills promised to contact this paper to clarify the matter but failed to do so by the time of going to print.

However, one of their employees who flatly refused to be identified because he has no authority to speak to the media said the only price that was increased this week was that of flour but said he is not aware of the reasons behind the increment. “All I know is the price that was increased yesterday is that of flour. I do not have all the details pertaining the increment. I will advise you to talk to our sales manager for more information,” he said.

Public Relations Officer of Ministry of Trade and Industry Liahelo Nkaota said the ministry had not ordered Flour Mills to increase prices or any retailer. She said they had received a tip-off that some Chinese shops and wholesalers have increased prices during the lockdown and were investigating such shops. “We are not aware that the Lesotho Flour Mills has also increased prices. But now that we know our consumer welfare that is already investigating the reported shops will visit Flour Mills as well.

“It is illegal that prices are being increased during this time, therefore legal action will be taken towards businesses that will be found to have increased prices,” Nkaota said. The trade ministry has appealed to consumers to report such malpractices, along with details of the name of the particular business and its location. The outbreak of the virus has given rise to predatory prices hikes worldwide as the few shops privileged to operate take advantage of to maximize gain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *