The Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection said it will visit the factories of toiletries and detergent items and analyse the manufacturing costs to assess whether the local companies raised the prices of these items to cash in on market volatility.
"We will visit the companies with representatives of some other departments to assess how much the prices were supposed to go up, and how much they actually increased," the directorate's Director General AHM Shafiquzzaman said at a meeting with the companies on Wednesday.
He said if anything unusual is found in their inspection, they will recommend actions against the manufacturers.
Toiletries and detergent prices posted multiple surges after the Covid outbreak in early-2020. Amid the Russia-Ukraine war and local dollar market volatility this year, the companies came up with another hike early-September citing costlier raw materials.
Like the global oil market, Shafiquzzaman said there should also be ups and downs in the international toiletries' raw material market.
"But your [local companies] records only speak of hiking the prices," he commented.
The manufacturers claimed that the companies regularly adjust the rates of their products as per the international market, but they could not specify when they reduced toiletries prices.
"It is difficult to recall it all the time, but whenever raw material prices go down, we adjust it," claimed Zahid Malita, chief financial officer of Unilever Bangladesh Limited.
Malik Mohammed Sayeed, director (Operation) of Square Toiletries Ltd, said they had once reduced the prices seven years ago owing to cheap raw materials.
Sayeed said raw material prices now show a slight downturn in the global market. It would take four to five months more for toiletries prices to cool off if raw material supply to the international market remains steady and the local dollar market remains stable.
After the latest hike in September, a 100-gram bathing soap now costs Tk55 from previous Tk40, while 500-gram detergent is at Tk90 from earlier Tk60. The price of a 100-gram toothpaste tube rose by Tk10-Tk20 as the prices of all tissue papers increased by Tk5-Tk10.
Unilever Bangladesh's Zahid Malita said soap and detergent prices spiked up to 60% in the last two years. Around 80% of the raw materials of the products are imported.
He said the price of half a kg of Rin Washing Powder was Tk60 in 2020. The price of its main raw material sulfuric acid was at Tk83 per kg at that time. In 2022, half a kg of Rin powder is at Tk90, as now the raw material is at Tk190 per kg.
"Similarly, the prices of soap raw material vegetable oil and toothpaste raw material soda ash have increased unusually in the international market. But prices of some raw materials are now declining in the global market," he said.
The companies claimed they have to cut the profit margin significantly for price adjustment as people have already reduced the consumption thanks to the biting inflation. When raw material prices began to fall in the global market, a pricier US dollar pushed up the making costs.
The manufacturers called for easing up duty pressure on raw material imports.