Hoarding, overpricing would lead to criminal charges, warns DTI

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) warned that criminal charges would be filed against those suspected of overpricing and hoarding medical devices and products like alcohol, medicines, and face masks.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Thursday, March 12, that he recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the issuance of an executive order, arming the DTI, along with the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation, with "visitorial powers" to quickly address profiteering.

Amid the novel coronavirus scare, some individuals have been buying medical supplies in bulk and selling them online at ridiculously high prices. (READ: Self-quarantine guide amid coronavirus pandemic: When to do it, what to stock up on)

One even tried to sell alcohol for P750 per bottle on Facebook's Marketplace. (READ: Staying compassionate in the time of coronavirus)

Under the Consumer Act or Republic Act (RA) No. 7394, overpricing may be considered as an unfair and unconscionable sales act or practice since it involves taking advantage of consumers in this time of need. The Price Act or RA No. 7581 also considers this as an act of profiteering.

"Both of these laws provide criminal and administrative penalties and sanctions. Under the Consumer Act, if found to have committed an unfair and unconscionable sales act or practice, an administrative sanction of up to P300,000 may be imposed and/or imprisonment of up to one year," the DTI said.

For profiteering, Price Act violators would face a fine of up to P2 million and imprisonment of up to 15 years. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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