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12 stores charged over overpriced face masks

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced that 12 out of 17 business establishments in Bambang, Manila were charged with alleged profiteering amid the increase in demand for N95 masks following the eruption of Taal Volcano.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said 12 of 17 establishments they visited in Bambang were issued notices of violations for jacking up prices of masks and other medical supplies.

She said the erring businesses will be charged with administrative and criminal cases for violating the Consumer Act.

“We will file administrative and criminal charges for businesses that sell overpriced medical supplies and medicines.

The public should also report such cases by sending receipts, documents to prove profiteering,” she said.

“After the notice of violation, we will issue formal charges against the medical stores in Bambang. Bahala sila mag-defend ng kaso sa hearing,” she added.

Castelo said some stores in Bambang were adding or even doubling the price of N95 masks when the law allows only a 10-percent profit margin.

The DTI said the penalty for profiteering ranges from R5,000 to R2 million. When found guilty, Castelo said the DTI can go for the highest amount against erring establishments.

Meanwhile, Castelo said they will recommend to the local government of Manila to at least suspend the medical supply stores in Bambang in order for them to learn their lesson for overpricing N95 masks.

“They are taking advantage of the difficulty consumers are facing right now, not giving consideration to the real worth of the product,” Castelo said.

According to Castelo, the DTI has dispatched inspectors to monitor the prices of N95 masks and basic goods in Metro Manila and Calabarzon after complaints by consumers about jacked-up prices.

The agency also ordered a price freeze on basic medicines and equipment, including regular masks and N95 masks. However, it cannot impose price freeze on areas not under a state of calamity. (Argyll Geducos)