THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said tax reform is being used by vendors as a pretext to raise prices beyond authorized levels, as confirmed incidents of mispriced goods rose sharply compared with a year earlier.

It added however that those caught doing so quickly readjust their prices to conform to the suggested retail price (SRP) for basic consumer goods, and maintained that the overall impact of mispricing is small.

Trade Undersecretary for Consumer Protection Ruth B. Castelo said that the implementation of the first package of the new tax law, known as Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), has brought about more cases of sellers exceeding the SRP.

“We find some establishments that have higher prices than the SRP and they blame the price increase on the TRAIN law,” she added.

“We called their attention and they immediately changed their prices. There have been slight increases because of the TRAIN law but we can correct it.”

The DTI said price increases beyond SRP levels for basic goods were found to be in the range of 4-25 centavos.

“The increases that you see now are caused by other factors such as foreign exchange rates, the price of raw materials [and] the price of crude oil,” Ms. Castelo said.

“The price of crude oil has increased in the international market not just the selling price in the Philippines,” she added.

In the first quarter of 2018, 47 establishments were found to have been selling above SRP, against 16 in the first quarter of 2017.

She said increased complaints were also fielded by the 8888 hot line and the DTI call center, as well as field monitoring in areas like Antipolo, Bulacan, Metro Manila, and Leyte.

Ms. Castelo said her group will be conducting monitoring and enforcement activities in Coron, Palawan; Cavite, Davao, and Laguna soon.

The Bureau Assistant Director for Consumer Protection and Advocacy Lilian G. Salonga said that based on field monitoring data, prices remain little changed.

“Basic necessities and prime commodities are stable based on our weekly reports… when comparing the prevailing prices last week and a month ago, prices didn’t move much. The only notable increases come from processed milk and powdered milk,” she added.

“We also saw a decrease in the weekly comparison of prices for bottled water and [condensed] milk and candles.” — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato