Netizens have slammed local retail outlets for the alleged price hikes of several products since May 1, the day when the government e-voucher first entered into operation. Residents turned to social media over the weekend to express their dissatisfaction, uploading photographs as evidence.
At yesterday’s press conference organized by the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center, the authorities acknowledged that they had received a high number of complaints from the public regarding unreasonable price hikes practiced by supermarkets.
Kong Son Cheong, the Head of the Licensing and Inspection Department of the Economic Bureau (DSE), said that the DSE and the Consumer Council (CC) had addressed these complaints. Kong said, according to the investigations conducted, most cases were found to be related to mistakes on the part of the establishments or their staff members, and this occurrence was exaggerated by reports on social media.
For example, one viral photo circulating on social media shows a bottle of corn oil that was originally worth 129 patacas has increased in price up to 178 patacas, which caused outrage among netizens.
However, the DSE verified that the amount that registered at the cashier was 129 patacas, and thus called on supermarkets to standardize the indications to “protect consumer rights and interests.”
Another example shows a video of a pack of four oranges, which was originally 36 patacas but was covered with a new price tag of 49 patacas.
One more issue was that some product prices scan differently at the cashier to the prices written on the goods.
These explanations did little to quell online complaints.
“They are clearly robbing the government’s money. Shame!” commented one social media user, as seen by the Times.
“The government should act and punish this greedy supermarket who’s taking advantage by increasing their prices too much! As of now I’d rather support small shops compared to them,” said another.
In a statement released by the DSE, the bureau noted that the government is attentive to the fluctuations of product prices in the market.
“The sector must assume its social responsibilities and must not take this opportunity to unfairly raise prices,” it noted.
The DSE was asked about the matter again during yesterday’s press conference.
“Maybe the citizens noted the price of some products were higher and immediately started to disclose such information, relating it to the e-vouchers. But we realized that most of the problems reported were due to errors and of course, it is unlikely that after the establishments corrected the flaws, that people will report those corrections in the same manner,” Kong suggested at the daily briefing.
It is not the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak that online reports of food supply shortages or price hikes have gone viral.
Last month, the local government had to assure the public of stable supplies of rice after reports of shortages began to surface on the internet. At that time, the DSE reported that while there were ample supplies of rice in the city, the actual price of the staple food product might fluctuate in response to changes in the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar.
For this latest outcry, the Consumer Council reported yesterday that it had received a total of 380 complaints, where about 80% referred to the activities of supermarkets.
Wong Hon Neng also said the CC has already addressed over 110 of these complaints.
According Wong’s replies to the media, the CC has not found yet reasons to act against any establishment for malpractice, saying that the problems registered were “mistakes due to work overload and insufficiency of staff from the shops,” classifying the situation as “unpleasant” but not sufficient to constitute market malpractice.
Both officials rejected the idea that the problems registered with the price hikes of many products were related to the start of operation of the e-vouchers, claiming instead that because the timing matched with the beginning of May, a time where shops usually make pricing adjustments, it generated some confusion.
Wong also mentioned his trust in the honesty of shop owners in Macau, and that the shops visited following complaints cooperated fully with the investigations. Renato Marques, Lynzy Valles
Two days of e-voucher use sees 125 million patacas injected into economy
In the first two days of operation, the government’s Electronic Consumption Voucher (e-voucher) was accountable for the acquisition of goods and services worth 125 million patacas, the Head of the Licensing and Inspection Department of the Economic Bureau (DSE), Kong Son Cheong, said yesterday during the press conference organized by the Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center.
According to the official, who was questioned on the topic by the media, in the first two days of operations (May 1 and 2), there were a total of 929,000 transactions made involving a total sum of 125 million patacas.
Kong also noted that regarding the places accountable for the transactions, on May 2 alone “supermarkets were accountable for 23% of the transactions, followed by restaurants with 21%.”
“The remainder (56%) involve many different business sectors among retail such as clothing, accessories, and others.”
At the same event, police authorities said they received reports of 64 people who lost their e-voucher cards, and one case of theft that involved the loss of another card.
Questioned on how people can retrieve lost or stolen cards, the Public Security Police Force representative appealed to the public that if they find any cards to return them to the lawful owners or deliver them to the police.
The officer also reminded the members of the public that the cards are individual and linked to a resident, so “if someone tries to use them, they will be charged with theft.” Renato Marques