The recent move by the United Nations urging all governments to take tough action against traders who are exploiting the prevailing global fear over of the Covid-19 outbreak by hiking prices of essential products like face masks, hand sanitisers and basic household goods could not have come at a more opportune time.
According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), the coronavirus outbreak has opened floodgates for unfair, misleading and abusive business practices by some rogue traders which have hit consumers hard and left the most vulnerable more disadvantaged as a result.
It cited Kenya, Nigeria, India, France, Italy and Greece as some of the countries where cases of price gouging of essential hygiene consumer products had been reported, forcing competition watchdogs to act.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had last month warned retailers that the government would take action against those found to have hiked prices. The Competition Authority of Kenya termed the practice as criminal and immoral.
The regulator should also be commended for ordering one supermarket to contact and refund customers who had bought sanitisers at inflated prices.
We, however, urge the State agency to scale up efforts to curb the negative practice by errant traders.
It is indeed a big shame that we have among us some greedy people who are out to reap from the vulnerable and innocent.
We call on the government to quickly take firm action against those who will be found culpable. It cannot be business as usual where the lives of people are concerned.
The sale of unregulated face masks for example is posing a deadly risk to unsuspecting members of the public who are seeking to comply with government orders to wear the masks in public places.
Unctad said there were misleading advertisements that were promoting false claims about products claiming to prevent Covid-19 infection to fake test kits. It also cited financial fraud schemes that were soliciting false donations and using phishing techniques.