Alleged price gouging started with consumption subsidy smartcards
The Consumer Council (CC) announced last night that it has withdrawn with immediate effect Royal Supermarket’s “Certified Shop” seal of quality in the wake of scores of complaints by consumers about the company’s sudden and steep price hikes on May 1, coinciding with the spending start of the government’s 3,000-pataca consumption subsidy smartcards for local residents.
According to a statement by the council, an entity under the portfolio of the Secretariat for Economy and Finance, officials from the council and the Economic Services Bureau (DSE) met with representatives of the supermarket company yesterday to discuss the alleged price gouging.
The statement said that the Royal Supermarket representatives claimed that the issue was due to “price labelling failures” by its staff. However, the council said that it considered the company’s explanation “unacceptable” and therefore decided to withdraw its “Certified Shop” seal of quality with immediate effect, based on the Regulations and Commitments of Certified Shops.
The “Certified Shop” status is granted by the council and reviewed annually.
According to the statement, the council discovered in response to a number of complaints in the past few days about the company that the latter had failed to clearly indicate the final price of its products on sale, thereby affecting consumers’ rights and interests.
The Royal Supermarket company owns over two dozen outlets in Macau. It is understood to be Macau’s number-one supermarket chain.
Several readers told The Macau Post Daily over the weekend that prices at Royal Supermarket outlets rose by more than one-third “overnight” on May Day, when many residents began to use their government-issued smartcards to go shopping. One reader said that fruit prices rose by around 35 per cent, while another said that cat food prices were “suddenly up” by up to 23 per cent on May Day.
The government has said that the consumption subsidy smartcards aim to help Macau’s retail shops, restaurants and other businesses, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular, tackle their dramatic drop in turnover caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The smartcards also aim to raise the spending power of residents, many of whom are in dire straits due to the COVID-19 crisis on the local economy, government officials have said.
According to Monday’s CC statement, the government urges all sectors of the population to help each other in order to overcome the current difficulties.
The statement condemned “irrational” price gouging during the current pandemic, since the May Day spending start of the consumption subsidy smartcards in particular.
It also promised to investigate in depth each complaint about suspected price gouging.
The council also said that it would speed up the drafting of additional legislation on a bill on the protection of the rights and interests of consumers. The bill is currently being reviewed by a standing committee of the Macau Legislative Assembly (AL). The statement said that the future consumer protection law would facilitate the council’s efforts to protect consumers’ rights and interests and “keep market order.”
Consumer Council President Wong Hon Neng said at a weekend press conference on Sunday that the council had received 380 complaints about price hikes between May Day and Sunday at noon.
The perceived price gouging has resulted in a wave of outrage and indignation on social media.
According to the Economic Services Bureau, residents spent some MOP 125 million (US$15.7 million) with their consumption subsidy smartcards on May Day and Saturday. There will be a 5,000-pataca top-up later this year.