Gov’t Closes 7,400 Businesses over illegal Price Gouging

ADDIS ABEBA – Government has started to take measures on businesses across the nation for allegedly inflating prices on essential commodities since the country confirmed its first COVID-19 case.

The prices of essential items have increased after consumers started to panic shopping – fearing the impact of Coronavirus.

The accused businesses were engaged in exploiting that and increase prices as well as engage on various illegal activities, officials said, forcing them to take measures.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry said it has shut down at least 7, 400 businesses that have been involved in illegal trading activities over the past few weeks.

These businesses were closed down following a recently formed task force had raided their shop suspected of price escalation, hoarding and other related activities.

The prices of commodities, in some cases, were increased by up to 100 percent, said Eshete Asfaw, State Minister of Trade and Industry, during a press conference on Thursday.

These commodities include cereals, pepper, lemon, onion, pharmaceutical products like sanitizer and medical mask.

Officials also accused these businesses of engaging in adulteration, hoarding, tempering with the quality of their product as well as working with bogus vouchers, among others.

The accused businesses are mainly located in Addis Ababa (over 1, 700), Oromia (about 1, 800), Amhara (over 1, 800), SNNP Region (over 1,000) and Afar (610).

Similarly, over 210 businesses in Benishangul-Gumuz, over 2000 in Dire Dawa, 29 in Somali region and 9 in Harari accused of illegal business activities have also been closed down.

Eshete said the ministry could revoke their licenses and, in some cases, would make them face justice.

Some of the accused businesses will remain shut till the ongoing investigations about their activities are over, he added.

There are over 2.2 million active businesses in the country.

The state minister has advised them to refrain from any greedy act and side with the public in this historical time.

“We should not compromise with lives of 100 million people and tolerate few illegal traders,” Eshete said. “We will continue to act strongly based on the law”.

By Sisay Sahlu

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