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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, October 1, 2020
Home News Local government DLCA Protects Consumers by Conducting Surveys on Food and Gas Prices

DLCA Protects Consumers by Conducting Surveys on Food and Gas Prices

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, (DLCA) continues to monitor the prices being charged to consumers by gas and essential commodity retail businesses such as grocery stores and supermarkets, to name a few. This concern is intensified because in the past these retailers have justified high prices as being due to the cost of oil, transportation and the cost of electricity.
Recent studies indicate that the price of oil per barrel continues to decrease on world markets; therefore, the cost of transportation and electricity is also decreasing. DLCA Commissioner Devin Carrington cites a report made by the U.S. Department of Labor that states: “Falling oil prices has resulted in a decline in the Consumer Price Index. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures changes in the price level of a market basket sample of consumer goods and services purchased by households across the United States.”
The Department of Labor report indicates that the drop was a result of a 2.4 percent decline in energy prices including a 3.9 percent fall in gasoline costs which affect the cost of transportation and energy generated by oil. The report goes on to say it was the fourth time in five months that gas prices fell as the cost of crude oil continues to decline. Additionally, it states that food prices on the shelves also dropped for the second straight month. In fact, since March of last year, the trend has been a decline in food prices.
In the Virgin Islands, despite the national trends, retailers of food and gasoline have kept their prices virtually unchanged from what they charged before the decline in the cost of energy. Contrary to the trend, in the food sector there has been a noticeable price increase in some items on the shelf in the territory.
By all measures, these prices are far above and beyond national prices and, therefore, they can be seen as unjustifiably excessive. This is a clear indicator that profit is the only basis by which these retailers operate, disregarding fair trade practices that protect the welfare of the consumers who faithfully patronize them.
As a result, DLCA is taking measures to bring relief to the consumers of the V.I. Statutory provisions that allow the department to set reasonable profit margins on certain consumer commodities will be utilized. Of course, this cannot be accomplished without proper data. Collaboration with members of the Legislature to strengthen laws to prevent and penalize excessive pricing is in the works. The department, as usual, continues to publish market prices for local retailers and responds to consumer concerns regarding the retail practices and quality of retail goods. The survey results are available to the public at DLCA offices.
Consumers have a right to expect fairly priced items. DLCA urges consumers to shop smart; organize, strategize and seriously consider taking measures that send an emphatic message to such retailers. The best way to gain relief in the meantime is by empowering consumers to patronize only consumer friendly establishments.
DLCA reminds consumers to use all legal means of publicity available to report instances of excessively priced goods and services, and it urges that they send pictures and make reports directly to DLCA. The commissioner informs the public that the department will also utilize the DLCA-Careful Consumer Facebook page to review reports and photos that can be posted for direct access by department inspectors and enforcement officers.
For any other information or to make a report, consumers may still visit DLCA offices or call 714-3522 on St. Thomas or 713-3522 on St. Croix.

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