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The Prices and Consumer Affairs Division is looking into complaints of unethical pricing practices in certain stores, restaurants, and other business providers whose prices have skyrocketed overnight.
It has come to light that some retailers have been increasing their prices following a 2 percent rise in the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST), as reported by Trade Minister EP Chet Greene.
Minister Greene has confirmed that the department is actively investigating these complaints and has urged the public to let the department professionals conduct their assessments, analyses, and evaluations to provide necessary reports to him and the government.
The Minister has assured the public that the Consumer Affairs Department is closely monitoring the situation to prevent dishonest business operators from engaging in price gouging
He stated, “I can assure you that whatever is proven to be correct by way of the reports will be dealt with by the strictest measures allowed in the law.”
Meanwhile, Information Minister, Melford Nicholas, said the government has been receiving numerous complaints from the public regarding exorbitant price increases of goods.
He said according to reports, the price hikes are much higher than what the additional ABST rate would suggest.
Minister Nicholas revealed that these complaints have been a matter of great consideration for the Cabinet.
While the government took some proactive steps to notify the public about the changes in the tax code and the two percent increase in the ABST rate, there have been many concerns about some retailers taking advantage of the situation to engage in price gouging.
Minister Nicholas has notified the appropriate government agency, the Prices and Consumers Affairs Division, of these matters.
He has also requested that the division take necessary steps to address these concerns.
Orrin Steele, the head of the P&CAD (Prices and Consumers Affairs Division), has already made media appearances to address the issue.
Minister Nicholas has reminded the public that even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government had created a basket of items that were exempted from ABST.
The government has since increased the number of items in the basket as it announced the increase in the ABST rate.
According to Nicholas, the government never intended the additional tax rate to negatively impact the most vulnerable members of society.
For this reason, the government conducted a further review of the basket of items that were zero-rated.
During discussions with the personnel from the Ministry of Finance, concerns were expressed about the inflationary impact on those at the lower end of the economic ladder.
To lessen the impact on the vulnerable, the government broadened the ABST net by moving the rate paid by visitors in line with what is paid by others in the society. Previously, tourists paid a lower rate of ABST.