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Price Hikes: FCCPC warns against conspiracy, urges adherence to market integrity in food industry  

*The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission discloses it is working with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and other  government agencies, consultants, and Civil Society Organisations to design measures to curb the excessive prices of commodities in the markets

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has become aware of media reports indicating that the Honourable Federal High Court has ordered the Federal Government to fix the prices of certain food commodities.

Dr. Adamu Abdullahi, Acting Executive Vice-Chairman/Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO), noted this development in a statement issued Friday, February 9, 2024.

The Commission said this is an unusual practice in a free market.

Abdullahi stated though the FCCPC was not a party to the suit, it is taking all steps to obtain the judgement of the Court and make appropriate responses.

The statement said: “For clarity, it is imperative to underscore that the Commission is not mandated to regulate prices.

“However, in rare situations and pursuant to Part XI, and Section 88 of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA), the Commission may advise the President to fix the prices of certain goods and services, based on empirical evidence.

According to the market regulator, the Commission understands the natural apprehension consumers and businesses are experiencing.

The Acting EVC/CEO also said: “It, therefore, notes and welcomes continuing engagements and progressive measures to contain price gouging throughout the food distribution chain.

“The Commission is working with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, other government agencies, consultants, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to come up with measures to curb the excessive prices of commodities in the markets.”

It recalled on July 18, 2023, the Commission and Consumers International had co-hosted the Fair Food Pricing Multi-stakeholders Workshop for the purpose of gathering information and evidence on anticompetitive activities, such as price gouging, price fixing and other cartel conduct that lead to unfair food pricing.

“The Commission firmly believes that empirical data about the cause of unfair prices in the food sector must be the basis for any enforcement exercise. “Accordingly, the Commission is by this release encouraging the public or anyone with useful information in the food chain industry, with respect to unlocking possible illegal, exclusionary or restrictive practices that contribute to unfair food prices to report same to the Commission, through its designated portal.

“The Commission’s priority remains to address key consumer protection and competition issues in the Food chain sector,” the statement noted.

The FCCPC as well disclosed its surveillance efforts suggested  that participants in the food chain and distribution sector, including at the retail level are engaging in conspiracy, price gouging, hoarding and other unfair tactics/ strategies to restrict the supply of food, manipulate and inflate the price of food in an indiscriminate manner; this conduct violates both moral and legal codes.

It warned: “Taking advantage of consumer anxiety and vulnerability to inflate prices, and restrict or distort competition, is obnoxious, unscrupulous, exploitative and illegal.”

The Commission stated that the use of undue influence, imbalance in negotiating power, unfair tact and similar conduct in the marketing and supply of goods and services is contrary to Sections 17 and 124 of the FCCPA, and will be penalised under law.

“Any business participating in activities contributing to price gouging in the food chain sector is hereby warned to desist forthwith or face the full force of the law.

“The Commission will not tolerate actions compromising the integrity of the food chain sector, and legal consequences will be swift and severe,” Abdullahi stated.

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