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Retail stores in Central Visayas must explain why they were subjected to a pricing freeze.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Central Visayas, at least 52 retail outlets in Region 7 have received a letter of inquiry (LOI) for breaching the price freeze order.

The DTI-7 stated in a statement that LOIs were given to two of the 137 establishments in Cebu province that were monitored owing to complaints.

The LOI required the violating retail establishments to explain to the trade agency why they should not be sanctioned for selling basic needs at prices higher than those covered by the price freeze.

“A notice of violation (NOV) would be issued if the explanation of those issued LOI for breach of the price freeze is judged by DTI to be unjustified,” DTI-7 information officer Jojisilia Villamor said in a statement posted on their social media account.

Prices of basic needs in places designated under a state of emergency or calamity are automatically frozen, according to Section 6 of Republic Act (RA) 7581 or the Price Act, as revised by R.A.10623.

This would imply that the pricing in an emergency situation is the same as it was prior to the disaster.

The price freeze will last for 60 days or until the President lifts it.

The organization is working with local government entities to ensure that businesses are following the price freeze they issued and updated.

“If establishments are found to have violated the law, (an LGU) can suspend, revoke, or cancel the business permit that allows them to operate,” according to the statement.

Anyone detected breaching the automatic or compulsory price ceilings during emergencies can face an administrative punishment of not less than PHP1,000 but not more than PHP1 million, according to the Price Act.

Consumers in Cebu province, comprising the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu, are reminded to check the price freeze order for basic needs, which can be obtained at https://bit.ly/32sepiy.

The public is also encouraged to report any instances of overpricing or stockpiling on the DTI Cebu Facebook page, by email at r07.Cebu@dti.gov.ph, or by calling the DTI Cebu mobile hotline at 0917 818 8419.

The complainant must provide proof or evidence of the alleged wrongdoing.

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