Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban told MPs today that Consumer Affairs has received a number of complaints of price gouging when it comes to “the hike in prices of certain staples” in Bermuda.
- 11 (1) For the purposes of this Part the following shall be deemed to be unfair business practices— (b) an unconscionable consumer representation made in respect of a particular transaction and, in determining whether or not a consumer representation is unconscionable, there may be taken into account that the person making the representation or his employer or principal knows or ought to know— (ii) that the price to be charged will grossly exceed the estimated or quoted price, or that the price grossly exceeds the price at which similar goods or services are readily available to like consumers;
Mr Roban also noted that in Bermuda “where we import the majority of our foods and materials, it is often difficult to assess fair pricing”.
“Rising food prices are a global issue and, as Bermuda is part of the global economy, we are also affected. Pricing, however, is subject to many variables such as global market influences, natural disasters and conflicts, product volume and country of origin, negotiated price, shipping, customs duty, taxes, local operational costs – to name but a few. In addition, many of our items are shipped in smaller quantities which drives up the price per unit,” he said.
“As an example, you would have also been aware of the recent recall right here in Bermuda, of romaine lettuce. A few days ago, there was a story on the US news about the recall of certain beef products.
“The scarcity created by these recalls pushes up the purchase price, particularly when they have to be purchased from countries further away than the US. Because of the greater distances, the cost of shipping will also rise.
“In addition to the costs to import food, we must also take into consideration that retailers must add on a percentage to pay their staff, operating costs and to earn a profit to keep them operating. This also applies to fresh produce. Our farmers must also pay import costs for seed and other supplies in addition to paying staff and other operating costs.
“We appreciate that Bermuda businesses are facing a shrinking market share; higher operational cost and a decline in consumer spending.