The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) warns filing of criminal charges on overpricing and hoarding of medical devices and products like alcohol, medicines, masks of N-88, N-95, other similar face masks, alcohol/sanitizers, and medical devices.
“We have recommended to the President the issuance of an Executive Order (EO) for easier procedure of filing of cases and imposition of stiffer penalties for profiteering. The proposed EO will arm the DTI together with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police (PNP), and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) with visitorial powers to address the issue on prices and supply of medical products,” says Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez.
Demand for alcohol hand sanitizers face masks are rising due to the rapid increase in confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.
Under the Consumer Act or Republic Act (RA) No. 7394, overpricing of face masks may be considered as an unfair and unconscionable sales act or practice since it involves taking advantage of consumers in this time of need. The Price Act (RA 7581) also considers this as an act of profiteering.
Both of these laws provide criminal and administrative penalties and sanctions. Under the Consumer Act, if found to have committed an unfair and unconscionable sales act or practice, an administrative sanction of up to P300,000.00 may be imposed and/or imprisonment of up to one (1) year.
For profiteering, the Price Act provides for the imposition of fine of up to P2,000,000.00 and/or imprisonment of up to 15 years.
The DTI continues to intensify its monitoring and enforcement efforts to ensure the reasonableness of prices and sufficiency of supply of goods in the market. This includes the basic necessities as price freeze is in effect throughout the country following the declaration of State of Public Health Emergency. During price freeze, prices of basic goods are frozen at their 2 | Page prevailing prices for 60 days which means that no price movement is allowed within this period.
Consumers are enjoined to report hoarding, profiteering, panic buying, and any other illegal act of price manipulation through the One-DTI (1-384) Hotline or send an email to ConsumerCare@dti.gov.ph.