SINGAPORE: Between Jan 1 this year and Monday (Feb 17), the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) received 387 complaints on the overcharging of face masks, thermometers and hand sanitisers amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
CASE executive director Loy York Jiun gave the number in response to queries by CNA.
The issue of overcharging follows a surge in demand of sought-after items, as people rush to arm themselves in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which landed in Singapore in Jan 23.
A 50ml bottle of Dettol hand sanitiser, while sold out at many pharmacies and supermarkets, could be found for between S$5 and S$7 at some shops in Chinatown and Little India, at least the double the regular retail price.
Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng also flagged a shop on his Facebook page for selling 20 masks for S$138.
In comparison, Watsons Online's list price for a box of 10 surgical masks is S$2.50.
Mr Loy said that consumers who wish to report on or provide feedback on the overcharging or overpricing of face masks, thermometers and hand sanitisers by retailers do not have to pay a fee to CASE.
Consumers who feel they have been misled when buying and wish to seek a refund, can file a complaint for CASE to assist them, he said.
For such cases, a nominal fee to CASE applies, but this fee is waived for some, such as PAssion card holders.
“CASE is closely monitoring these feedback on the overcharging/pricing of face masks, thermometers and hand sanitisers together with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS),” he said.
GOVERNMENT WATCHING SITUATION
MTI said in a press release on Monday that it has exercised its powers under the Price Control Act to conduct inspections on the registered business address, warehouse and five retail outlets of 3 Stars, the shop that Mr Ng had written about.
This comes after MTI issued a letter of demand to 3 Stars last week asking for information relating to their pricing charges for masks. The legal letter required the shop to provide “complete information and documentation explaining the basis of their selling prices including invoices and sales receipts”.
“However, despite repeated exchanges with 3 Stars, the information furnished remained incomplete and its pricing practices have not changed,” MTI said.
It added that MTI will assess the need for further action after reviewing 3 Star’s responses and the information gathered during the inspections.
MTI first said it took action against an errant retailer in light of the COVID-19 situation on Jan 30.
It issued a letter of demand against Deen Express, in response to public complaints of sellers taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation to sell surgical masks at “grossly inflated prices”.
Singapore's Price Controller also issued letters to e-commerce platforms Lazada, Carousell and Qoo10 to request for information on any potential profiteers on their platforms.
Consumers who wish to report profiteering behaviour and unfair practices may contact CASE at 6100-0315 or submit their feedback via https://www.case.org.sg/complaint_onlinecomplaint.aspx.