MTI inspects 3 Stars' premises amid complaints of COVID-19 mask profiteering

MTI inspects 3 Stars' premises amid complaints of COVID-19 mask profiteering

3 Stars retailer masks
A 3 Stars store at Tampines Street 23. The retailer has been asked to explain the reportedly high prices of its masks. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan) 

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is taking further action against 3 Stars, after the retailer failed to respond adequately to the ministry's queries on why its mask prices were so high, amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

A letter of demand was sent to the retailer last week following complaints from consumers. The letter asked 3 Stars to explain "the basis of their selling prices for the sale of masks", including cost price and profit margins.

READ: Retailer 3 Stars asked to explain high prices for masks following public complaints: MTI

However despite "repeated exchanges" with 3 Stars, the information it provided remained incomplete and its pricing practices have not changed, said MTI in a news release on Monday (Feb 17).

"MTI has therefore exercised powers under the (Price Control Act) to conduct inspections on Feb 17, 2020 at 3 Stars’ registered business address and warehouse, as well as five of its retail outlets," it said.

The ministry said it would assess the need for further action after reviewing 3 Stars' responses and information gathered from the inspections.

The retailer is required by law to provide complete information and documentation explaining the basis of their selling prices, including invoices and sales receipts.

If it fails to fully comply, it could be penalised under the Price Control Act.

The Government has been "closely monitoring" retail practices and complaints from consumers regarding profiteering, said MTI.

Letters of demand will be issued to those suspected of profiteering.

Last month, the ministry issued five letters - one letter of demand to Deen Express and four requests for information to e-commerce platforms Lazada, Carousell, Qoo10 and Shopee. 

READ: Retailer Deen Express asked to explain high prices for masks: MTI

The supply of masks has  proven a contentious topic amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization chief warned the world was running out of masks and other protective equipment against the novel coronavirus.

The organisation said prices for some items were up to 20 times higher than normal, and its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters the problem was being made worse by "inappropriate use" of masks by people who were neither sick nor medical staff.

Singapore authorities last month announced that each Singapore household would receive four surgical face masks, after reports of long queues for masks at retailers across the island.

The country has confirmed 75 cases of the disease as of Sunday.

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Source: CNA/nc(hm)

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