ARE prices of goods and services going up now that we are on modified general community quarantine (MGCQ)?

With the relaxing of quarantine rules, more people are able to go out to purchase goods and services. What many of them found was the rise in the prices.

There can be justification for the price adjustments such as an increase in demand and the costs of protection and sanitation.

Additional costs to making the store safe for customers are the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, alcohol, thermometers and others and the hiring of a health officer to make sure they comply with government requirements for their reopening. It’s a kind of “Covid surcharge” they are adding to their prices but there is no law allowing such a surcharge.

The cost of having your airconditioning unit cleaned or your bicycle fixed has gone up. Before the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, one can have a split-type aircon unit cleaned for P800 to P1,000. Now, it’s at P1,200 by the same provider. The addition probably went to the cost of raincoat, disinfectant and alcohol that the workers used. The raincoat served as a sort of PPE while the disinfectant and alcohol the workers liberally used on their hands, shoes and equipment. For the bicycle service, the rise in demand for bicycles, their parts and maintenance caused also an increase in their prices. As to goods, a check at grocery store prices will show the adjustments.

The reopening strategy of businesses is to try to recover losses suffered during the five months when only essential operations were allowed. Airconditioning and bicycle shops are among those that reopened under the MGCQ, and residential areas and subdivisions started allowing their workers in to service the units. These businesses are among those that closed temporarily but are now starting to generate revenue again.

But consumers suffered the same economic slowdown. Why pass the burden to consumers? They suffered the same fate as these businesses before Cebu moved to an MGCQ status. Many lost their jobs. Others suffered pay cuts or saw their benefits removed. Anyone due for a salary increase faced a delay or was told it wasn’t coming. Others were offered early retirement, without enough resources to carry them through their senior years.

Businesses can be creative in seeing how not to raise prices drastically. They can offer lower-priced goods or present options for the customer to choose a package. There should be a balance between raising prices to cover Covid-related costs and still being affordable to customers.

In the absence of such balance, government monitors can come in and play the role of checking prices and ensuring consumer interests are served. The Department of Trade and Industry is one agency tasked to monitor prices. It should also protect consumers struggling to keep financially afloat during these uncertain times.