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40 price-control violations in a month!

The Supplies Control Unit (SCU), given its recently expanded price-control mandate, has recorded, in one month, almost three times the cumulative number of violations recorded over the last 13 years, SCU’s Controller of Supplies Lennox Nicholson told The Reporter this week.

“This is because our previous mandate limited our power to police effectively. Our new mandate gives the power necessary to monitor and enforce compliance,” said Nicholson. “The amendment to the legislation governing our unit has made the process more efficient. We are now better able to enforce our mandate and discourage price gouging on these items.”

Nicholson explained that under its previous mandate, during the period of October 2009 to October 2022, only 14 violations were recorded. According to the SCU chief, the most severe of these are found in the Cayes and south side of Belize City.

He added that work to establish the unit began this year, and it began full operations under its new mandate in September.

Manned by six persons, the unit patrols the entire country, inspecting stores for regulated items. If found to not be in compliance, store owners are ticketed and face a fine of $300.00 for every ticket received. Tickets are issued to owners who fail to declare or display prices to consumers, to those who fail to provide receipts and invoices to the unit, and to those who are charging prices above the approved rate.

The Unit is nestled within the Ministry of Agriculture and is tasked with monitoring the list of items under this program to ensure that businesses stick to an agreed, regulated price. Under this initiative, prices are regulated by the government, only allowing for a 15 - 20 % markup in price. The list of items offered is limited to basic need items and covers the lower-priced goods in stores.

Nicholson explained that items on the list are price-regulated and not controlled. The Act, which created the Supplies Control Unit, also mandated it to police stores to ensure compliance with agreed prices.

Nicholson explained that the Unit has held consultations with the Chinese business owners, who dominate the grocery market, the Belize Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI), and the government in order to make the unit effective. Their collective work has led to the success of the unit and will continue regulating on an as-needed basis.

Consumers who believe stores are not pricing regulated items fairly are encouraged to call the Supplies Control Unit to file a complaint. Nicholson ensures that his unit will follow up and address the issue in a timely way.

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