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Anti-monopoly watchdog warns against COVID19-related price-gouging

MUSCAT: The Competition Protection and Monopoly Prevention Centre (CPMPC) has threatened to invoke a tough new statute against local businesses found exploiting an upsurge in consumer demand for goods linked to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

In a statement, the watchdog warned that the Law on Protection of Competition and Prevention of Monopoly criminalises price-gouging of products by traders taking advantage of a strong rise in the demand for such merchandise.

The warning comes in the wake of an outcry by consumers who have taken to social media in recent weeks to decry allegedly inflated prices levied by supermarkets, pharmacies and other stories on, among other products, sanitizer liquid — demand for which has soared in the wake of the global outbreak.

The Centre cited Article 9 of the Law, which prohibits businesses from concluding “any agreement or contract inside or outside the Sultanate or to undertake any measure or practice, whether written or oral, express or implied, aimed at preventing competition or limiting or weakening them, including limiting production quantities or limiting their flow to the market or taking them out completely or partially by hiding them, storing them or refraining from dealing with them and refraining from dealing with the product in the market, whether by selling or buying with a specific person or persons”.

Article 10 of the law also threatens penalties against “a person enjoying a dominant position is prohibited from engaging in any practice that would disturb, limit or prevent competition, including buying, storing or destroying goods with the intention of raising prices or preventing their decline, reducing or increasing the available quantities of the product, including Leads to the creation of a real deficit or abundance in it”.

The Competition Protection and Monopoly Prevention Centre was established by Royal Decree 2/2018.

Investigation, research and inferences about anti-competitive and monopolistic practices, receiving and investigating complaints of anti-competitive and monopolistic practices, taking appropriate decisions and examining suggestions and recommendations to the Centre in relation to the protection of competition and the prevention of monopoly.

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