Price gougers swallow a bitter pill

Price gougers swallow a bitter pill

Lazada and Shopee in trouble for hosting vendors

Shoppers at a drug store in Bangkok's Saphan Mai area buy medication and Covid-19 self-test kits. A number of online vendors were charged with price gouging.
Shoppers at a drug store in Bangkok's Saphan Mai area buy medication and Covid-19 self-test kits. A number of online vendors were charged with price gouging.

The Commerce Ministry has taken legal action against 11 vendors and two leading e-commerce sites found to have been price-gouging in the sale of antigen test kits (ATKs) and fah talai jone, also known as green chiretta.

The ministry instructed the police to arrest the operators of two online platforms -- Shopee and Lazada -- that allowed traders to sell the two products at unreasonable prices.

Speaking after a meeting of the Central Committee on the Prices of Goods and Services, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said the committee decided to file a lawsuit against 10 green chiretta vendors and one ATK vendor found to have been selling the products at unreasonable prices via the two online platforms.

The vendors are accused of violating Section 29 of the Price of Goods and Services Act of 1999.

Under Section 29, a business operator cannot act with the intention to unreasonably suppress the price or unreasonably inflate the price, or cause a fluctuation in the price of any goods or services.

The committee may prescribe rules to ensure the prices are reasonable.

"The Internal Trade Department's officials have already teamed up with the Consumer Protection Police Division to file a profiteering lawsuit against all 10 green chiretta vendors, eight of whom sold through Lazada and two on Shopee," said Mr Jurin.

"The maximum penalty is seven years in jail or a fine of up to 140,000 baht, or both."

ATK was approved by the Public Health Ministry for sale through drug stores administered by pharmacists.

One drug store near Kasetsart University was selling ATKs at 450 baht apiece, 29% higher than the ministry's reference price of 350 baht.

This drug store is also charged with violating Section 29, he said.

The meeting yesterday also agreed to set up a subcommittee chaired by the commerce permanent secretary to supervise and evaluate the sale of ATKs and impose guidelines to regulate distribution.

Commerce permanent secretary Boonyarit Kalayanamit said the Internal Trade Department notified ATK manufacturers and importers to submit their production and import costs as well as suggested sales prices for consideration.

Ten out of 34 brands registered with the Food and Drug Administration have recently provided notification of their price structures.

The manufacturers and importers reported they set their average sales price at 250-350 baht per unit.

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