The ‘‘abnormal’’ hiking of prices of essential goods should not be blamed on the current economic crisis but on a cartel that has been formed among traders, the Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA) has revealed.
And Consumer Competition and Protection Commission (CCPC) has cautioned traders to engage in fair trade and not manipulate consumers by abnormally hiking commodity prices due to the poor performance of the Kwacha.
ZACA information and publicity secretary Juba Sakala said theprice increases were totally abnormal because they were being applied on old stocks.
Mr Sakala said the Government and consumer associations were working together to find a lasting solution to the collusion by traders which was unjustifiable.
He said ZACA was doing everything possible to protect consumers from the abnormal pricing which only benefitted a clique of people who were driving the cartel to bring confusion among market players.
“It is not fair to subject the consumers to this failure to access goods because of unreasonable prices. There is nothing convincing to hike the prices as high as by 100 percent or more.
“When you go to the market today you find a different price tag which is different from yesterday, and as consumers on the market, we are convinced that there is a cartel behind all these inconsistencies so that at the end of the day they can blame someone,” he said.
Mr Sakala said the Government should take full responsibility to protect consumers from such exploitative tendencies by traders who were taking advantage of the consumers. He said despite the country facing numerous challenges, it was unfair to hike commodities by 100 percent, because all the products were already in the country before the economic challenges that have weakened the Kwacha.
“We are working with Government and other consumer associations to pull down all these uncertainties because those traders who have hiked the commodities are lying that all the products were ordered during the economic challenges the countries was facing,” Mr Sakala said.
Some consumers in Lusaka have complained that they were finding it difficult to budget for essential commodities because the prices were being hiked on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, the CCPC has cautioned traders to engage in fair trade and not manipulate consumers by abnormally hiking commodity prices due to the poor performance of the economy.
CCPC public relations officer Hanford Chaaba said the performance of Kwacha against major currencies was not a leeway for business people to engage in any type of behaviour in the name of making quick money.
Mr Chaaba said CCPC expected traders to continue abiding by the law of engaging in fair trade so that consumers are not manipulated.
“We would like to caution the traders that they should not take advantage of the dollar appreciation to start engaging in certain behaviour that affects consumers.
“Such traders are putting themselves on what we call competitive disadvantage. They are chasing away customers because they will know that they are not genuine traders and if consumers were clever they would ignore traders engaged in such business practices so that when the situation normalizes, they can completely shun them ,’’ he said.