The government has said it will open a formal investigation over the under-invoicing scam of Durbar Marg based retailers from Friday.
The Department of Supplies Management told a press conference on Wednesday that further investigation is needed before taking action against the retailers, who were accused of charging exhorbitant prices by marking up prices as much as 2,300 percent. The investigation will be launched jointly by Inland Revenue and Supplies Management departments.
On September 4, Minister for Supplies Shiva Prasad Mandal led a market monitoring team and raided nine branded stores in Durbar Marg. The stores were sealed when the team accused the stores of charging exorbitant prices. The sealed outlets include stores selling products from international brands like Nike, Reebok, Puma, Bentley and Levis, among others.
It was the first time that the government authority had stepped up action against the branded stores.
However, the issue has drawn criticism from the people after Minister Mandal subsequently directed to allow such shops to resume operation without taking any legal action.
Consumer rights activists charged that instead of taking action under the Black Marketing and Some Other Social Offences and Punishment Act, the minister had shown leniency towards the stores.
Minister Mandal, however, said that this time they had not carried out the market inspection just for formality. “Unlike the traditional market inspections done in the past, this time, the government is serious and will take the case to a meaningful result,” said Mandal, speaking at a press meet. He hinted that the wrongdoers might face stern action under the Black Marketing and Some Other Social Offences and Punishment Act.
Mandal said: “The government authority, in the last five years, have conducted market inspection more than 17,000 times. But retail stores in the Durbar Marg area remained untouched.” In most of the cases, the wrongdoers have been released without facing action despite being proven guilty.
Kumar Prasad Dahal, director general of the Department of Supplies Management, said they had interrogated the accused shopkeepers and will be conducting further investigation. “It took almost two weeks to obtain clarifications from these nine accused traders,” Dahal said.
Meanwhile, consumer rights activists demanded the government to amend the laws related with the consumers’ rights. “There is contradiction in the regulations provisioned under Black Marketing and Some Other Social Offences and Punishment Act 1975 and Consumer Protection Act 1998,” said Prem Lal Maharjan, president of National Consumers Forum. Maharjan said the lengthy formalities of the government have been giving reprieve for traders who have been proven guilty for cheating consumers.