If consumers have complaints over the recent hike in cement prices, they should take them to the Fair Trading Commission or Office of Public Counsel.
That advice came from Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Senator Lynette Eastmond, at a media briefing at her office, where she said her ministry had been receiving a number of complaints. She admitted the hike was a concern to her ministry.
Eastmond said Government had put mechanisms in place to deal with regulation of the market and she did not feel her ministry should engage in setting policy as it did previously with price controls.
³What we would wish to happen is for the public to utilise the mechanisms that we have put in place, namely the Office of Public Counsel and the Fair Trading Commission,² she said.
She added her ministry would continue to monitor the situation and carry out its own investigations, and was willing to have discussions with parties involved to allay public fears.
Eastmond said there had been concerns that the price of Arawak cement in Barbados was higher than in other regional countries. She said suggestions had been made about the necessity for prices to be lower in other countries to be competitive.
³We have not done any research outside of Barbados, so we cannot say anything from a factual perspective on what is going on in the foreign markets,² she said.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Cephas Gooding, said that previously the retail price of cement was $16.95 and it was now $20.95. He said available figures showed the margin on the profit which retailers previously got reflected a 15 per cent margin on the price.
³Today at $20.95, the margin seems to be 30 per cent, so there is a doubling of the margin. You can judge for yourself and draw your own conclusions,² he said.
Public Counsel Barry Carrington said no complaints in relation to the price hike had been made to his office.
³If and when we do, we will investigate. There is a guarantee under the Consumer Guarantees Act that says the consumer must pay a reasonable price and as soon as we get a complaint, we will examine it to make a determination,² he said.