The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (Commission) has warned businesses participating in unwholesome activities of overcharging vulnerable consumers in the food chain sector to desist or face the full weight of the law.
FCCPC said, it would not tolerate actions compromising the integrity of the food chain sector, threatening that the legal consequences would be swift and severe.
The Commission’s Ag. Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Adamu Abdullahi handed down the warning in a statement on Friday, February 9, 2024.
He said, the Commission’s surveillance efforts suggest 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.
The conduct, he noted, violates both moral and legal codes.
“Taking advantage of consumer anxiety and vulnerability to inflate prices, and restrict or distort competition, is obnoxious, unscrupulous, exploitative, and illegal”, he added.
Furthermore, he said, the use of undue influence, imbalance in negotiating power, unfair tact and similar conduct in the marketing and supply of goods and services contrary to Sections 17 and 124 of the FCCPA, will be penalised under the law.
Dr. Abdullahi said, the Commission is aware of media reports indicating that the Honourable Federal High Court has ordered the Federal Government to fix the prices of certain food commodities.
“This is an unusual practice in a free market. Although the Commission was not a party to the Suit, it is taking all steps to obtain the judgement of the Court and make appropriate responses.
“For clarity, it is imperative to underscore that the Commission is not mandated to regulate prices. However, in rare situations and pursuant to Part X!, 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.
“The Commission understands the natural apprehension consumers and businesses are experiencing. 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 agendas, consultants, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to come up with measures to curb the excessive prices of commodities in the markets.
“On July 18, 2023, the Commission and Consumers International 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”, he explained.