Consumers will soon be able to go online and compare prices at supermarkets and minimarts before they set out to shop, Minister of Commerce Dwight Sutherland has revealed.
The price registry, to be housed on the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCAA) website is an attempt to help prevent price gouging by enabling consumers to lodge complaints with the department, he said.
Sutherland told Barbados TODAY: “When we went to Parliament as a ministry we recognized that one of the key issues in this country was access to information and there’s something we are pushing called consumerism, whereby you have to make sure that the consumers have good, current and up to date information on products and that is the focus.
“Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic it is even more apparent that the power in this country resides with the consumers. They have the power and they are the ones who have been giving us the information.
“We can’t visually see all of the minimarts and the price gouging within all of the minimarts, we have had to rely on social media and the information coming from consumers.
“So coming out of this we intend to publish supermarket prices on our website. We have to go to Cabinet as it is subject to Cabinet’s approval and what it does it gives the consumers more options and more information and that is good consumerism.”
Following a tour of the Bridge Supermarket at Charles Rowe Bridge, St George this morning, the Minister acknowledged there had been some “increases of prices” during the health emergency. But he contended that these had not been “to the extent that we can’t manage”.
DCCA Director Bertram Johnson told Barbados TODAY while the price registry would include all 23 major supermarkets and some of the larger and more popular minimarts.
But the registry would not likely include village shops because they usually bought stock in small batches, leading to a slight mark up on their prices, he said.
Johnson said: “There are 23 now that we do across the Massy, Popular, Jordan’s, Eddies [brands]. Of course, we can’t capture the small shops in the community but the consumers are the biggest drivers of any economy so once they report anything to us we are duty bound to investigate.”
Sutherland also suggested the establishment of a consumer body to represent the rights of shoppers.
While he acknowledged the efforts of consumer advocate Malcolm Gibson-Taitt who has been lobbying on behalf of consumers for decades, he said more was needed.
The Minister said: “We also want to have a consumer body, not one person. We have one person who advocates for consumers in this country and I want to give that person kudos, but we need a body who can advocate for the people of this country who buy goods and services and that is what we are pushing.
“We as a Government… are not afraid. We believe in transparency and stakeholder consultation at every step of our governance model and that is one of the things that we are pushing in our ministry.”
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