3 Stars apologises and cuts mask price; MTI to monitor retailer's pricing practices

MP Louis Ng on Feb 8 posted on Facebook a photo of a box of masks sold by 3 Stars going for $138 in his Nee Soon constituency.
PHOTO: Facebook/Louis Ng

SINGAPORE - A retailer that came under scrutiny for profiteering from the sale of face masks has lowered the price of the masks and apologised, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said on Tuesday (Feb 25).

The retailer 3 Stars has also produced records and invoices showing significant increases in the cost price of face masks from its overseas suppliers, the MTI said, adding that it will not be taking further action against the company for now.

"MTI will continue to monitor 3 Stars' pricing practices and reserves the right to take further action under the Price Control Act if warranted," the ministry said.

It did not say in its statement how much the retailer had lowered the price of its masks by.

The pricing had prompted public complaints.

MP Louis Ng on Feb 8 posted on Facebook a photo of a box of masks sold by 3 Stars going for $138 in his Nee Soon constituency.

On Feb 10, the MTI issued a letter of demand to the company compelling 3 Stars to submit documents explaining its prices, including cost prices and profit margins, but unsatisfactory responses led the ministry to inspect its warehouse and retail outlets a week later, on Feb 17.

Since then, the company has cooperated and the required information has been gathered through interviews with the owners and its staff, the MTI said in its latest statement explaining its decision not to pursue the matter further.

"We remind all businesses to exercise corporate social responsibility and not take advantage of the Covid-19 situation," it added.

[ They have apologised and reduced prices ] Many contacted me and were upset about a shop selling 20 masks for $138. I...

Posted by Louis Ng Kok Kwang on Monday, February 24, 2020

Last Tuesday, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said it had received 416 complaints related to the prices of face masks, thermometers and hand sanitisers sold in shops and e-commerce platforms since the beginning of the year.

Case executive director Loy York Jiun said then that the overpricing of such products in this period is "highly unethical", and that Case is closely working with the MTI and Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore to monitor the situation.

Members of the public can report profiteering behaviour and unfair practices to Case on 6100-0315 or submit their feedback through Case's website.

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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.