'Boycott profiteering retailers'

Hit them where it hurts - in the pocket, just as profiteers are hitting you.

Consumers, say advocates, have to send a strong message to companies that raise their prices unreasonably. That is the only way for businesses to feel the pinch and keep price hikes to a reasonable rate.

Singaporeans have been hit with a hike in alcohol prices after the Government raised alcohol taxes by 25 per cent.

Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah said: "Consumers should not let retailers take us for a ride or take us to be fools. We have to stand up for our rights and we yield a lot of power - the purchasing power.

"So we must exercise this power by avoiding retail outlets that are out to profiteer, take unfair advantage of us."

During the Budget debate earlier this month, the Nee Soon GRC MP had hit out against retailers who "cashed in" on the liquor duty hike.

She also spoke of a coffee shop that charged 20 to 30 cents extra for a cup of kopi-o, by justifying that the cost of sugar per kilogramme has gone up by the same amount.

Ms Lee told The New Paper that price hikes were a common gripe among her residents.

"Everywhere you go, you'll hear about price hikes. Some are justified and some are not," she said.

"I understand that retailers need to be profitable. But it is different when you try to capitalise on a situation to ramp up your profit margin and slash the man in the street."

Last week, a Consumer Association of Singapore (Case) survey of 23 food and beverage vendors found that only three did not raise their prices above the calculated alcohol duty increase.

Case president Lim Biow Chuan, who is also MP of Mountbatten SMC, suggested consumers boycott outlets that "take advantage of the tax increase and inflate prices without clear justification".

But the perception of "value for money" is less relevant to those who drink, said an expert in consumer behaviour.

National University of Singapore Business School's Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon said: "As alcohol is addictive, we tend to find consumers who drink tend to be less price-sensitive.

"Consumers also tend to have short memories and are adaptable. Although they may initially begrudge the price increase, over time, they become accustomed to the new, higher price and adapt accordingly, just like (they did to) our taxi fare hikes."


Another hit to the wallet for Singaporeans last week came in the form of the World Cup TV one-time subscription price rising to above $100.

SingTel's World Cup 2014 package will cost fans $105 ($112.35 after GST), but it is free for those who sign a two-year contract for its English Premier League broadcasts.

Assoc Prof Ang said that because there was a monopoly on the rights to broadcast, consumers have no alternative to watching the matches here.

"Unless some shift is made at the higher level to regulate these charges, shareholders' concerns prevail."


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