KATHMANDU, Aug 12: The decision of the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection (DoCSCP) on Monday fixed the maximum retail price of bottled water has dragged the regulator into a controversy.
The decision has landed into controversy as consumer rights activists claim that the prices have been raised exorbitantly high to benefit the owners of bottled water producers.
The department has fixed the price of a jar of processed water at Rs 50 per unit while the product in a pet bottle has been fixed for Rs 16 per bottle. On an average, a jar of bottled water is already available for Rs 40-50 in the Kathmandu Valley.
Narendra Maharjan, a shopkeeper in Lazimpat, said he has been selling a jar of processed water for Rs 40 per unit, which costs Rs 30 to him. “The department’s decision will now provide ground for unscrupulous businesspersons to sell it at a higher price by adding more amounts in service charge,” said Maharjan.
The department, however, claims that it has set the new price to relieve the customers as a jar costs an average of Rs 70 per unit. In regard to the price of a pet bottle, it has been reduced from Rs 20 to Rs 16 per bottle.
Madhav Timilsina, president of Consumer Rights Investigation Forum, said it was an inappropriate move on the part of the government regulator to hike the price of the essential good to benefit the proprietors of the bottled water factories.
According to the department, prices have been fixed as prescribed by a taskforce that included representatives from the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, Nepal Bottled Water Industries Association, National Consumer Forum and the DoCSCP. The taskforce took samples of 21 water processing units to assess the actual costing of the bottled water.
As per the DoCSCP officials, the company price of a jar of processed water is Rs 20, while the price at distributor level is Rs 35 and the retail price is maximum of Rs 50. The Department’s Director General Netra Subedi said they fixed the price in an attempt to reduce the number of layers in the supply chain of a number of essential goods including processed water.