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DTI-7 continues to monitor overpricing a month after ‘Odette.’

Even if a month has gone by since the onslaught of Typhoon Odette, the Department of Trade and Industry in Central Visayas (DTI-7) stated on Monday that it will continue to monitor for violations of the price freeze order by commercial businesses.

The DTI-7 stated in a statement that its provincial offices are increasing their monitoring of establishments across the region to ensure that basic requirements and prime goods are available at reasonable costs (BNPCs).

DTI-7 has issued 84 letters of inquiry (LOIs) and 16 notices of violation (NOVs) to erring enterprises and sellers of hardware and building goods that have broken the fair trade rules as of January 14.

Eight LOIs or show cause orders were issued in Cebu alone, while four NOVs were served to erring establishments.

Three representatives of Cebu-based establishments participated during the pre-adjudication meeting, according to Ines Cajegas, DTI-7 consumer protection desk officer, in a message to the media.

“(One) has accepted the offense and paid the minimum fine of PHP5,000 plus an undertaking not to commit the same violation (in the future),” Cajegas added.

The DTI in Bohol also issued 76 letters of intent and 12 notices of violation to supermarkets and outlets suspected of violating the price freeze order, as well as dealers of hardware and construction goods suspected of violating the fair trade law.

The DTI has jurisdiction under Republic Act 7581, or the Price Act, to ensure that the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities are reasonable.

All consumer products sold in retail to the general public must have an appropriate price tag, label, or marker stating their prices, and they must not be sold at a higher price than that specified on the price tag itself, according to Republic Act 71, or the price tag legislation.

Both regulations, according to Cajegas, protect customers from illegal price manipulation such as stockpiling, profiteering, and cartel, especially after a disaster.

For violations of price ceilings, the legislation imposes a fine of not less than PHP5,000 but not more than PHP1 million on erring individuals or corporations.

Profiteering, stockpiling, and cartelization is examples of illegal price manipulation that can result in a punishment of not less than PHP5,000 but not more than PHP2 million.

“The government’s aim is to ensure that essential requirements and prime commodities are always available at reasonable costs, without depriving legitimate enterprises of a fair return on investment.” It also protects consumers from price surges that aren’t legal,” according to the statement.

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