Ministry bans 45 Blue Flag cheats

Ministry bans 45 Blue Flag cheats

Bottles of palm oil sit in a Bang Yai market. Prices for palm oil of 40-60 baht per bottle are more expensive than usual. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Bottles of palm oil sit in a Bang Yai market. Prices for palm oil of 40-60 baht per bottle are more expensive than usual. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The government has cut off 45 low-priced Blue Flag stores from its financial relief schemes after they were found to breach the conditions.

Supapat Ongsangkoon, deputy permanent commerce secretary, said on Wednesday following investigations by the Commerce Ministry the 45 shops were found to have taken advantage of the government-sponsored schemes by unfairly raising the prices of products, displaying no price tags and swapping the state subsidy for cash.

Those merchants that violated the conditions were immediately cut off from payment for the government's co-payment subsidy scheme, Rao Chana financial aid scheme and Section 33 We Love Each Other programme, he said.

According to Mr Supapat, all retail outlets participating in state-sponsored schemes face scrutiny from Commerce Ministry officials, who will directly report to the Finance Ministry for punishment if retailers are found to breach the state's conditions.

"The Commerce Ministry has instructed commerce officials in provinces nationwide to continue inspections on a daily basis," he said. "The ministry also received complaints from consumers over unfair price increases in many provinces, such as inflated palm oil charged at 60 baht per bottle in Surin province."

Mr Supapat urged consumers who find price gouging at retail outlets participating in the government's aid schemes to notify the Commerce Ministry, either via the 1569 hotline or the ministry's provincial offices nationwide.

The department is set to exercise Section 29 of the Prices of Goods and Services Act to file legal action against merchants if they are found to sell unreasonably expensive products.

The penalty for selling unreasonably expensive products is a 140,000 baht fine or imprisonment of up to seven years, or both.

Mrs Pannee, 59, a housewife in Bang-or district, said she noticed some food vendors and restaurants in her area have raised their food prices after participating in the government's aid programmes.

"We're fully aware of it, but we buy their products because we still pay less than we would for vendors not in the schemes," she said.

Somkiet Pumiwatudompong, the owner of Saisong Market on Phutthamonthon Sai 2 Road, said he has notified all food vendors at his market not to raise their product prices after joining the government's aid schemes in order to maintain customer loyalty.

"We have set up a Facebook page for customers to complain about problems. We have monitored the market and found no food vendors hiking prices. Competition is very fierce and customers are ready to shift to other places," Mr Somkiet said.

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