Tuesday 1 December, 2020

DOMA on virus-related price gouging: Customers will remember

Photo via journalist Sharmaine Baboolal/Facebook.

Photo via journalist Sharmaine Baboolal/Facebook.

President of the Downtown Merchants' Association (DOMA), Gregory Aboud, said customers will remember businesses who hike up prices for hand sanitisers and cleaning products due to panic-buying. 

Speaking to Loop News, Aboud said most businesses are responsible regarding their pricing, however there are a few who might seek to capitalise on panic-buying which ensued after government confirmed one coronavirus (COVID-19) case in the country.

The patient, a 51-year-old man, was isolated at home after arriving in the country from Switzerland on Monday. His family was also kept at home and contact tracing is being done for the other passengers who arrived on that particular flight, officials said. 

The update comes after several photos were shared online showing hand sanitisers and other cleaning products with increased prices. 

“I see that there is being expressed some concern about price gouging. I know that most businesses have a sense of community and responsibility, but to the others, I would say taking advantage of customers in their time of need can only lead to customers remembering you did that when the emergency passes, and in my opinion it is unwise and unfair."

"It's unfair because it's taking advantage of the misfortune we are in. So I find it inadvisable to promote any price gouging," he said. 

He admitted that panic-buying has created a drain on certain products.

"The demand for supplies is equal across the board and with DOMA it is no different. There has been a demand for soaps, hand sanitisers, hand gels, Lysol wipes and other similar products…this is unfortunate because the panic buying is causing shortages where they wouldn’t normally exist but we have to try our best to ride it out."

Aboud is urging businesses to take extra health and safety measures to sanitise workspaces. 

“We are urging businesses to provide adequate cleaning supplies and to ensure that washrooms are stocked with good quality soap and cleaning products, and hand-cleaning products to keep sanitation and hygiene levels at the forefront of operations in the work environment."

"However, beyond that there's not much we can do. Obviously we will self-quarantine and keep away from those who are sneezing and coughing, practise self-distancing etc., but we have to wait to see how things take place."

Aboud added that he is concerned about the economic fallout in the country. 

"From all appearances it seems that the Caribbean, even though it doesn’t (yet) have a high degree of infectious spread, will have a reaction from the economic impact as shown from the lull in the cruise business, financial sector and the oil and gas sector, and that’s more worrying."

"I believe that we have been prepared by the Ministry of Health and we are keenly aware of our responsibilities. Many institutions are taking actions on their own. All of this is very responsible and I think this will work well in stopping the spread, however I don’t see anything on the economic side to mitigate what is looking like a global slowdown, and that’s of great concern."

"People need to pay for their living conditions, people need to pay rent, to buy gas, and how will this happen if the GDP continues to shrink the way it’s shrinking?"

He also commended Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and the Ministry for its regular communication on the situation as it develops. 

"I would say the Ministry of Health has provided very up to date communication and has taken ownership of the crisis to his credit. I don’t think that anyone can find fault with what he’s doing and the effort he has put into this to keep the country informed and keep us advised."

"I think it has prepared the country and there’s a note of hopefulness that the Minister has been proactive about this."  

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Pharmacy Board, Andrew Rahaman, said he was not notified about any price gouging however he also urged pharmacies to be ethical in their pricing. 

As of March 13, 2020 at 4.03 pm, there were 34 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Caribbean. One woman was said to have died of a related health condition in Guyana, after being diagnosed with the virus, on March 10, 2020.

The public is urged to follow the Ministry of Health via its social media channels for the latest updates on the coronavirus. 

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