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DOHA: A law put into force 41 years ago to regulate and monitor the pricing of mainly food items, including food served by eateries, hotel room tariffs and the rates of some services, is to be amended to bring within its purview more commodities and services, and increase the jail terms and fines prescribed for those found violating the provisions of the legislation.
The State Cabinet yesterday said measures must be taken to introduce amendments to some key provisions of Law Number 12 of 1972 that gives the right to the Minister of Business and Trade to fix the maximum wholesale and retail prices of a number of items, mainly food and hotel room tariffs.
The Ministry of Business and Trade at the time was known as the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Commerce.
The law prescribes a jail term of one month to a year and a fine of between QR1,000 and QR10,000, or both, for traders for taking consumers for a ride and charging them more than the prices fixed by the minister.
It is interesting to note that the law also prescribes a punishment of QR300 for a consumer who deliberately pays money over and above the maximum price of an item or service fixed by the minister.
The consumer is to be pardoned if he admits to the authorities concerned his fault, says the law, which has 13 articles.
The Cabinet said yesterday that the aim of amending some key provisions of the law was to fix the maximum prices of some commodities and services and determine the profit margins for the producers, importers and retailers.
It also talks of arming employees of the authorised department at the Ministry of Business and Trade (arguably, the Consumer Protection Department) with judicial powers.
The existing law also gives authority to the trade ministry to set up a committee that would fix the maximum prices of commodities and services in a bid to prevent price manipulation by wholesalers, importers or retailers.
The Cabinet said yesterday the recommendations of the Advisory Council about the proposed amendments must be taken into account while framing the law for passage.
It may be recalled that plans are already afoot to set up a high-profile inter-ministerial committee that would fix maximum prices of various commodities and services in the local market to prevent price manipulations by traders to keep inflation under check.
Observers say the proposal to amend the law has come at the right time when the population of the country has risen many times over since 1972 and the country has witnessed unprecedented economic and social development. Marketing methods, people’s purchasing power and consumer patterns have also undergone a sea-change ever since, say observers.