Fri, Mar 11, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Take action on prices: foundation

COST OF LIVING:The Consumers’ Foundation called on the Fair Trade Commission to monitor price fluctuations to ensure stability and to investigate possible price fixing

By Shelley Huang  /  Staff Reporter

A survey of recent price hikes on consumer products showed that prices for cooking oil, infant formula, beverages and tissue paper last month rose between 8 percent and 24 percent from January, the Consumers’ Foundation said yesterday. The foundation urged the government to actively investigate possible price-fixing and collusion.

The consumer rights watchdog said that while businesses have attributed price hikes to the rising global cost of raw materials, such claims should be viewed with skepticism, as businesses rarely cut prices when global raw materials prices fall.

Volunteers at the foundation checked the prices of goods sold at supermarkets and grocery stores around the country and found that compared with prices in January, the price of cooking oil, powdered infant formula, beverages and tissue paper all increased -significantly last month.

Beverages accounted for the largest average increase in price, at 24 percent, while there was a significant price rise of about 12 percent for cooking oil and powdered infant formula. Prices of various brands of tissue paper also rose by about 8 percent, the foundation said.

Foundation chairperson Joann Su (蘇錦霞) called on the Fair Trade Commission to actively investigate possible price-fixing by companies such as makers of instant noodles, whose products have risen by between 10 percent and 30 percent in price, depending on the type of noodles and distribution channel.

“The commission should publicly announce increases in the price of staple products,” Su said. “Doing so would not only give consumers a convenient point of reference when shopping for groceries, but would also deter businesses from raising prices by unreasonable amounts.”

The foundation called on the commission to monitor price fluctuations to maintain a certain level of price stability for consumers.

In response, the commission said it would investigate violations of the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法) and crack down on collusion if any such activity was determined to have occurred.

Those found to be in violation of the act could be fined between NT$50,000 (US$1,697) and NT$25 million.

The commission also said it would seek to determine whether the price hikes represented reasonable adjustments reflecting rising costs in raw materials by looking at the cost of the goods and the operating costs of retailers stocking them.

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