THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has served 16 notices of violation (NOV) and issued 84 letters of inquiry (LOI) to non-compliant establishments of the Price Freeze Order and Fair Trade Law a month after Typhoon Odette (Rai) wreaked havoc in parts of Central Visayas.

As of January 14, 2022, the DTI 7 said there were eight LOIs issued in Cebu, which means that retail stores have to explain to the DTI why they were selling basic necessities at prices beyond the amounts set at the price freeze.

If the explanation of those issued letters of inquiry for violation of the price freeze is found by DTI to be unjustified, a NOV will be issued. DTI 7 said four NOVs were served to erring establishments in Cebu, according to the latest update released by the DTI 7 Monday, January 17.

In Bohol, there were around 76 LOIs or show cause orders and 12 NOVs issued to non-compliant supermarkets and to retailers of hardware and construction materials.

According to Ines Cajegas, chief of the Consumer Protection Division of DTI-Cebu Province, establishments issued NOVs will be required to appear within 48 hours before the DTI in a pre-adjudication conference to determine if there’s voluntary admission of the violation and/or the necessity of filing of a formal charge.

A fine of P5,000 to P1 million will be imposed for violation of the price ceiling or an administrative fine of P5,000 to P2 million for acts of illegal price manipulation like profiteering, hoarding and cartel, plus a cease and desist order, among other administrative sanctions, will be imposed.

Cajegas said three Cebu-based establishments appeared during the pre-adjudication conference and one of them admitted to the violation and paid the minimum fine of P5,000 plus an undertaking not to commit the same violation again while the two had to proceed to adjudication.

The Price Act gives the DTI jurisdiction to ensure that the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities are at reasonable levels.

The Price Tag Law, on the other hand, requires that all consumer products sold in retail to the public shall have the appropriate price tag, label, or marking indicating their prices and shall not be sold at a higher price than that stated on the price tag.

Both laws protect consumers from illegal acts of price manipulation, such as hoarding, profiteering and cartel.