Editorial

Ensuring cheap hand sanitiser

AS the coronavirus pandemic rages, there is a danger that some people will take advantage of the situation and try to exploit the public.
But this must not be allowed. Even though the country has a liberalised economy, in which businesses have leeway over prices, Government must act and ensure that they do not overprice their goods and services.
There is always a tendency by businesses to take advantage of situations when certain products or services suddenly are in high demand.
The coronavirus pandemic that has rocked the world is one situation over which some unscrupulous traders want to exploit instead of trying to act for the common good.
The warning that has been issued by Lusaka mayor Miles Sampa to traders should be taken seriously, and Government must ensure that he has its backing.
With Government having issued directives on how the public can protect themselves – health wise – there has been a great demand for hand sanitisers which have even run out of stock. Even face masks and gloves are hard to find.
In trading outlets where they are available, they have been priced beyond the reach of the average Zambian.
Mr Sampa, who is slowly turning into a “people’s mayor” has not wasted time and warned that traders found overcharging on hand sanitisers risk losing their licences.
As Mr Sampa pointed out, it was an offence to over-price products in line with the Consumer Protection Act.
He said the Lusaka City Council has since moved in and anyone found wanting will face the law.
“I want to send a hard warning to all those trading in sanitisers, gloves and masks for prevention of the coronavirus that if they are found over pricing these items, they will have their trading licences suspended.
But even as Mr Sampa is leading the crusade against unscrupulous traders, the public must also be pro-active by exposing traders they feel are overcharging.
Consumers should be happy that Mr Sampa has promised that the Lusaka City Council will act promptly on their complaints.
“To you consumers and our residents, my office and Lusaka City Council offices are open to you. If you see anyone over pricing, please do come in and lodge a complaint and I can assure you that your complaint won’t go in vain,” Mr Sampa said.
Zambians should realise that the problems they are facing are being experienced in other countries as well and authorities are not taking a back seat. Mr Sampa should be commended for his principled stand.
Just as a matter of interest for Zambians, in South Africa, The Competition Commission has warned that it will fast-track complaints about rising prices for essential products to ensure that firms exploiting consumers are quickly prosecuted and penalised during the state of national disaster, declared as a result of the coronavirus.
With heightened concerns about Covid-19, the commission has noted several complaints from the public about rising prices for essential products, in particular some food, healthcare and hygiene products, the antitrust body said in a statement.
It is obvious that greed knows no boundaries But with unity of purpose, consumers can eliminate unscrupulous traders from the market as they tackle coronavirus.
Together, we can.

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