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Customer lobby sounds alarm on unreasonable price increases

The Consumer Federation of Kenya (COFEK) has sounded the alarm on irrational price increases by certain retailers.

The consumer lobby says it has received an increased number of complaints on retail chains taking advantage of the impending general elections, high inflation and the Russia-Ukraine war to arbitrarily increase prices of fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs).

COFEK lists maize meal, wheat flour, sugar, cooking oil, tissue paper, milk and groceries as some of the goods hit with irrational price tags.

“Abuse of buyer power between manufacturers and supermarkets is hurting consumers. Retail chains are varying prices at will and in an exorbitant manner,” COFEK said in a statement.

COFEK wants the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) to take immediate action to restore order within retail chains and expects the Retail Traders Association of Kenya (RETRAK) to rein in members.

At the same time, the consumer lobby wants manufacturers to publish updated recommended retail prices (RRPs) on their websites to allow consumers to make the necessary price comparisons.

Moreover, COFEK wants the Ministry of Trade to develop draft legislation to regulate retail chains.

Recently, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) echoed similar remarks arguing certain sellers had taken advantage of the high commodity prices chaos to pass on even higher costs to Kenyan consumers.

“We know there are unscrupulous business people out there and they will seek to take advantage of any crisis. There is no crisis they can’t take advantage of. This is really sad,” noted CBK Governor Dr. Patrick Njoroge on March 30.

“I think they need to be called out on these things. It is not an issue of pricing, these are crimes and need to be called out for what they are.”

The alarm bell on arbitrary price hikes comes as the cost of living rises to a more than two-year high with the inflation print having come in at 7.1 per cent at the end of May, the highest rate since February 2020.

Costlier food and fuel products have been primarily behind the rising consumer prices.

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