The government-mandated price freeze on certain consumer food products went into effect yesterday, February 1, which means that from now until May 1, consumer protection inspectors from county and government offices will monitor compliance with the food “price stop” regulation in all parts of the country.
On-the-spot inspections will examine whether the products covered under the policy are set at what they cost on October 15 last year, the appropriate quantity of products are stocked, and proper signage on the price stop is displayed. Failure to do any of these things will result in a fine of at least 50,000 Ft. (US $159). For repeated violations, the store may have its business activities suspended for a minimum of one day, the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM) said in a statement.
The price freeze on groceries covers a total of seven products:
• Crystal sugar
• BL-55 wheat flour
• Sunflower cooking oil
• Pork leg
• Chicken breast
• Chicken backs
• 2.8% UHT milk
The price of each of these products cannot be higher than what the product sold for in the store on October 15 last year. If the item was on sale at that time, then the pre-sale price must be applied. If the store is unsure what the price of the product was, the store can use the average consumer price for the product as indicated on the Central Statistical Office’s website.
RTL News reported that some stores had already changed the price tags on the affected foods and put up signage after closing on Monday. The National Trade Association expected sales to jump on Tuesday as many consumers postponed their shopping until the price stop came into effect on February 1.
In its statement, ITM emphasized that households would be able to save thousands of forints a month under the new policy, benefiting families with children and the elderly in particular.
Contrary to the usual practice, no warnings will be given for businesses not following the policy, and inspectors will able to impose fines ranging from 50,000-3 million Ft. ($159-$9,560) for infractions. Sanctions can be applied more than once, with fines doubling when a store continues to break the rules. Businesses with repeated violations can also be shut down from a period of one day up to six months.
The Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM) has compiled guidelines for retailers on the standard pricing, inventory, and product range for these products, which it distributed to industry groups and published on the Consumer Protection portal.
In the ministry’s statement, Péter Cseresnyés, State Secretary for Trade Policy and Consumer Protection, explained:
Consumer protection professionals will be monitoring compliance with the regulations in grocery stores, markets, and online shops from now for the next three months. Businesses selling the affected products in brick-and-mortar stores as well as webshops will have both areas monitored. ITM will summarize its initial experiences of the inspections as early as next week.