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Business etiquette during calamities

Should supply and demand prevail over morals during disasters?
By Carlo P. Mallo |

While business is generally dictated by the invisible hand called supply and demand, it is also unethical to jack up prices of basic goods just because a disaster took place and people are panicking to buy the few remaining canned goods left in your mini-grocery.

Soon, it will not only be unethical, but criminal as well.

To protect the ordinary Filipino from unethical businessmen, like a water refilling station in Calumpit, Bulacan who jacked up prices by as much as 300 percent at the height of the onslaught of Typhoon Pedring, Senator Manny Villar pushed for a law that will penalize businessmen taking advantage of disaster-stricken customers by jacking up prices of essential goods.

Senate Bill No. 1306 prohibits price gouging, or the charging of unconscionably excessive price, for certain goods and services in areas affected by major disasters. "In order to prevent such unscrupulous party from taking advantage of consumers during calamities, a law must be enacted penalizing such acts," said Villar.

The bill actually teaches the Filipino entrepreneur on how to ethically conduct business during a calamity:

1. The bill prohibits the price gouging of good, piece of equipment, or service provided primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, including food, water, ice, a chemical, a building supply, a tool, a petroleum product, a residential construction, reconstruction, or repair service, or a service for the removal of debris or garbage.

2. The bill also prohibits suppliers from providing or offering to provide, any consumer good or service in an affected area at an excessive price during the 180-day period after the declaration of a major disaster by the President.

3. Businessmen and parties within the chain of distribution of consumer goods are also reminded to "consider the interest of the public and heed the call to treat customers fairly during times of need."

Moreover, the bill proposes the establishment of a toll-free hotline that a consumer may call to report an incidence of price gouging in the affected area and a program to develop and distribute to the public informational materials in Filipino and English to assist residents of the affected area in detecting and avoiding price gouging.

Businessmen who will be found guilty of violating such are to be imprisoned for no more than one year plus a fine of P10,000.

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