Consumer Affairs Dept. yet to find price-freeze violations
Walmart president reiterates Inventory Tax must be eliminated
SAN JUAN — The interim secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO by its Spanish acronym), Carmen Salgado, spoke Tuesday about a brand of water on store shelves that was priced at more than $12.
Salgado said during a tour of several stores to verify compliance with the price freeze order as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches close to the island that no fines have needed to be issued to stores or gas stations yet.
“In one of the stores that we verified, we saw that it was premium water, which regularly sells for $9.99, because the cost to the business is $9.50. This verification was done with the invoice. We understood it was reasonable because it is not the type of water we prefer to buy because it is less economical,” she said.
The official said DACO has 23 inspectors, which although is not enough, she can request resources from other agencies such as the Treasury Department, if necessary.
Meanwhile, the former president of the Gasoline Retailers Association, Ricardo Román, said Tuesday that consumers’ main concern is having fuel for their generators. People were saying Monday on social media that there was an insufficient amount of fuel on the island. DACO confirmed the assertion.
“Yes [there is gasoline]. It began to flow since Sunday due to the proximity of the phenomenon. There is a product, there is logistics with the wholesalers for the supply of the stations and that the consumers can serve themselves and there should not be any kind of concern in this regard,” Román said in a WKAQ radio interview.
The price of regular gasoline varies between 69 cents and 71 cents per liter, Román said.
Regarding drinking water supplies, the Government of Puerto Rico authorized a special dispensation to bring more from the U.S. mainland.
“It is important to highlight that dispensation, but the elimination of the Inventory Tax must be insisted upon. I think that is going to help a lot to increase supplies in emergency situations,” said Iván Báez, the president of Walmart, Sam’s and Amigo supermarkets in Puerto Rico. “When these types of phenomena occur, the demand doubles. For example, the 37 cargo containers that are sold weekly become 70 containers. That is why we moved to ask for that water waiver.”
Stores currently have a 21-day inventory, which Báez believes could be raised to 45 days with the elimination of the Inventory Tax.
DACO’s price freeze order applies to products, services, materials, supplies and equipment for sale or rental needed for emergency situations. On the other hand, the Profit Margin Order includes the sale and distribution of gasoline, liquefied gas and diesel.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced signed Monday an executive order declaring a state of emergency.