Consumer rights activists say collusion behind inaction
KATHMANDU, Jan 27: Cement manufacturers have not yet reduced the hiked price of cement, disobeying the government’s direction to do so. The three-day deadline given by the government to the cement manufacturers for reducing the hiked prices expired on Thursday.
Government officials said that only few of the industries have slashed the price but to an amount less than the increased price.
After finding that the cement prices were increased by 10 to 16 percent arbitrarily, the government on Monday had directed all cement manufactures via Nepal Cement Manufacturers’ Association to withdraw price hike.
Prices of other construction material such as steel rods, sand, and aggregates have also been increased repeatedly within a month’s time.
Laxman Shrestha, spokesperson for the Department of Supply Management and Protection of Consumers Interest (DSMPCI), the agency for market monitoring and consumer protection, said that the cement manufactures, except for a few, have disregarded the government direction. He said the department will soon take stock of the market before moving ahead. Shrestha, however, did not give details about possible action against the manufacturers.
Commenting on this, consumer rights activists have said that no action taken by the government’s agencies clearly indicates that there is collusion. “The government has found that cement producers are overcharging consumers on various pretenses. But government and its market regulatory agencies are not taking action about it,” said Bishnu Timilsina, secretary of Forum of Protection of Consumer Rights Nepal, a consumer protection body. The repeated price hike has come at the same time the quake-affected families have started rebuilding their houses after receiving the second tranche of housing grants, according to Timilsina.
Talking to Republica, Tara Prasad Pokhrel, general secretary of Nepal Cement Manufacturers’ Association, denied price hike as reported in the media. “Cement manufacturers are slowly reducing the price but we cannot cut down all the hiked prices as the prices of the raw material, clinker, has increased and the transportation cost has soared,” added Pokhrel.