The Bangladesh Competition Commission has filed cases against eight individuals and companies, including Unilever, City Group, Kazi Farms, Paragon Poultry and Rashid Agro, alleging that they illegally hiked prices of various essentials since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war.
For illegally overcharging the price of rice, the commission has sued Abdur Rashid, owner of Rashid Agro Food Products Limited, and Belal Hossain, owner of Belcon Group, as well as two corporations – City Group and Bangladesh Edible Oil Limited.
It has also filed cases against three egg producers and distributors for illegally hiking the price of the product. They are Paragon Poultry Ltd, Kazi Farms Group and Amanat Ullah, president of Egg Traders' Multipurpose Cooperative Society.
Apart from this, separate cases have been filed against Kazi Farms and Paragon Poultry since as chicken producers they overcharged customers.
The commission has also filed a case against Unilever – producer and marketer of soap, detergent, and paste – which allegedly illegally increased the price of these essential products.
Competition Commission officials said the commission filed the cases on its own initiative on 21 September and sent notices to these companies to attend hearings in the commission's own court on 26-27 September.
Md Mofizul Islam, chairperson of Bangladesh Competition Commission, told TBS, that the cases have been filed against individuals and organisations who have sharply increased the prices of various products and destabilised the market. The process of filing more cases for the same reason is going on.
However, the accused companies said the Competition Commission did not send any letter or notice to them regarding the cases.
Shamima Akhter, head of corporate affairs, partnership and communications of Unilever Bangladesh, said, "We have not received any such information. There is no justification for filing a case against us because we do not have any marketing or sales systems that violate the rules regarding competition."
Biswajit Saha, director of City Group, said, "We have not received the letter yet. However, the Competition Commission is issuing such notices against many companies. We are doing business according to the law."
Sources said the cases have been filed under Sections 15 and 16 of the Competition Act. According to Section 15, a company will be penalised if it creates a monopoly by influencing the market. And in Section 16, it is said that enterprises must not abuse their dominant position to manipulate product prices.
In recent times, there has been instability in the prices of rice, oil, eggs, chickens and soap, detergents and paste in the country. In addition to regular market monitoring, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) has held meetings with the manufacturers and marketers of these products, and raised allegations of their illegally hiking product prices.
Recently, DNCRP Director General (Additional Secretary) AHM Shafiquzzaman said swift action will be taken against those responsible for creating instability in the market.
The price of rice has been high in the market for several months. A month ago, the price of coarse rice rose to Tk60 per kg, which was a record. Similarly, the price of fine rice rose to Tk85 a kg. Prices started to decline again due to the drives conducted by the authorities concerned and import of rice.
BCC Chairperson Md Mofizul Islam told TBS, "There are some corporate traders who just package rice worth Tk60-65 per kg and charge Tk80-85 for it."
Similarly, traders illegally increased the prices of four eggs to Tk60-65, and broiler chickens to Tk210 per kg. Due to drives, the prices of eggs and chickens were low for some time, but they have increased again. Currently, four broiler chicken eggs are selling at Tk45-50 and broiler chickens sell at Tk170-175 per kg.
After an investigation, the DCRP sent a report at the beginning of this month to the commerce ministry, asking it to take action against those involved in manipulating the price of eggs.
Toiletries manufacturing companies increased product prices on the ground that prices of raw materials had increased, but the DNCRP found that prices of soap, paste and detergent had increased much more than what they had been supposed to.