With the holy month of Ramadan around the corner, the Consumer Protection Association (CPA) has launched a campaign to monitor the prices of essential goods in an effort to control seasonal price increases.
“Although it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to control prices, the CPA is cooperating with the ministry to monitor food prices to protect consumers from price hikes during the holy month,” Nasser Al-Tuwaim, chairman of the CPA, told Arab News.
He said that they are working on developing a quality market price index that compares prices of various brands across local retailers to help consumers find the cheapest prices and which enables the CPA to locate local traders who are inflating prices unduly.
“I would also like to convey to the consumers that changing their shopping habits can help them save money,” he said, explaining that many traders take advantage of Saudi consumers’ brand loyalty for a product to manipulate the prices of these items.
Al-Tuwaim stated that while no entity can control the flow of supply and demand in a free market economy, some merchants have been withholding merchandise in order to justify price increases. “There is no reason to abuse the season,” he said.
He also explained that consumers in the Kingdom are often hit hard with seasonal price increases due to a culture in which people are not accustomed to plan ahead.
“Whether purchasing food items in Ramadan or airline tickets to travel during the summer vacation, people in the Kingdom usually wait until the last minute to purchase what they need, which causes a sharp increase of demand, resulting in unnecessary price hikes,” said Al-Tuwaim.
In a related development, local experts fear that the new labor laws might adversely affect food prices. Many restaurants in the Kingdom had previously depended on employing foreign workers at low salaries without transferring their sponsorships. However, with the new labor system, employers are obliged to rectify the work status of their staff or hire Saudis to work.