With Coronavirus being declared a pandemic and the states of India taking necessary actions and lockdowns to school, colleges, movie halls, etc. the rush for sanitizers and masks is leading the buyers to pay more than the MRP. Stores in Udaipur are charging higher than MRP rates to buyers looking at the deman supply gap and riding on the paranoia in public.
However, the Consumer Affairs Ministry on Friday had declared Masks and Sanitizers in the essential commodites list and this will be effective till June 30, 2020. This paves the way for a legal crackdown on stores who are selling these products above the MRP OR Hoarding them. The shift of these products brings them under the purview of the Essential Commodities Act, which also empowers the state to fix the price.
The pharmaceutical pricing regulator (National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority - NPPA) has asked the states to check for black marketing or hoarding of such products. The State can fix the price undr ECA, as it was noted that manufacturers are hiking the printed MRP on these products. Prices had earlier peaked over the last two months as hand sanitizers and masks were flying off the shelf. They were either declared unavailable or were being sold at exorbitant prices.
Under the EC Act, the state can ask manufactureres to enhance their production capacity and state can also ensure sale of products at MRP under the Legal Metrology Act.
This decision will facilitate the state and UT governments to regulate production, quality and distribution of sanitizers and masks - 2ply, 3ply, surgical and N95 masks. It can also take steps to ensure the availability of these items.
Offenders under the EC Act can be jailed for upto 7 years or fined or both. They can also be booked under the Black Marketing Act and detained for 6 months.