SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT), via its Inspectorate, publishes a monthly price comparison of an expanded list of items (including items on the maximum price list) to show the comparative prices of goods of items across various retailers on the Dutch side of the island.
Minister of TEATT Stuart Johnson, says Government monitors closely the cost of living and is doing what it can within its regulatory framework to provide transparency and assists consumers in helping them make informed decisions based on a comparative price listing which they can use when they are out shopping. Economic Controllers are at the forefront of this transparency process and work diligently carrying out their responsibilities according to the law.
Price comparison is a key choice tool for consumers. It enables consumers to compare products (similar or dissimilar) across the market, reduce the amount of time searching and comparing, and ultimately get better deals thus hopefully contributing to an increase in consumer buying power.
It is not the Inspectorate’s objective to suggest to the public that one product is superior or inferior in quality to another but rather motivate the St. Maarten consumer to exercise their consumer power by making them aware that there are options in how and where they spend their money.
In the most recent publication of the price comparison list it featured ‘meat and seafood’ products across 10 food retailers (of varying size) on the Dutch side. The methodology employed by the price surveyor during the observation process is simple; the prices of goods included in the price comparison list are surveyed “as is” meaning the surveyor records the retail price of the good as indicated on the shelf or packaging supplied by the retailer, in the retailer’s establishment.
This is the same retail price observed by the consumer and no calculations or changes are done to the price by the surveyor and they are published “as is”. On Friday, April 12th 2019, the Inspectorate became aware that Carrefour Market, a food retailer featured in the April 12th publication of the price comparison list of Meat Products had posted on its social media page alleging, “The retail price comparison done by Government of Sint Maarten is wrong! They are taking the 5 Pound pricing from the shelf and putting it as Kilogram pricing! We have previously mentioned to them that they are not comparing the same products across supermarkets.”
According to the Head of the Inspectorate of TEATT, Lucien Wilson, “We take allegations of this nature seriously. That is why we do our best to ensure in the preparatory phase that the information we will communicate to the public is accurate, transparent and timely.
“Likewise, the spreading of misinformation for unknown reasons must also be dispelled objectively as soon as practical for the protection of the consumer and to deter a breakdown of trust in the government by the public. To that end, moving forward we will also record price observations by taking a picture of the price as well, to increase transparency.”
Subsequently, on April 12th a follow up price observation was conducted at Carrefour Market. Once again, the surveyor modeled normal consumer behavior by observing the retail prices of the goods displayed “on the shelf” at Carrefour Market.
The findings including photos are published along with this article for public consumption and awareness. The observation dates of our initial price comparison were April 8th and 9th with the follow up observation date on April 12th, when we revisited Carrefour Market, specifically.
In most cases, our observed price/kilogram of meat and seafood at Carrefour Market remained unchanged between the observation periods. Of the 15 products observed, nine products we observed no changes in price/kilogram. Two products had price movements (increase or decrease) of less than ANG1.00/kilogram.
The biggest price movements were observed in Stew beef, Oxtail and Goat meat. The price/kilogram of Stew beef decreased by ANG18.13 to ANG11.82/kilogram within a four-day period. The price of Oxtail decreased by ANG36.61 to ANG 13.34/kilogram during the same time period. Lastly, the price of Goat meat increased by ANG8.35 from ANG27.44 to ANG35.79/kilogram.
It is important to note the following observations as well. All but one of the packaged meat products (goat meat) observed on April 12th had a packing date after April 9th.
However, despite a more recent packaging date, the majority of the price per kilogram observed remained unchanged. Secondly, all weights of the products observed were displayed in kilogram on the pricing labels during the observation’s periods of April 8th, 9th and 12th as required by the National Ordinance on Calibration art. 6, paragraph 1.
So, Carrefour Market was in compliance with the law.
However, according to their social media post they are claiming that they retail these meats products based on price per pound and not price per kilogram as quoted here, “They [Economic Controllers] are taking the 5 Pound pricing from the shelf and putting it as Kilogram pricing!” In the pictures posted on its social media page Carrefour Market has provided no evidence that it sells the observed meat products by the pound to support the aforementioned statement, quite the contrary the weight is listed in kilogram.
Additionally, Carrefour Market alleges that our price observations are incorrect even in those cases when they report the same price per kilogram as listed in the price comparison list. Case in point, the price per kilogram of Salted fish (bone in and boneless) and Bull foot in our price comparison list is the same as what they posted on their social media page on April 12th, 2019.
According to the Head of the Inspectorate, Lucien Wilson, “I stand by the findings of my Controllers with regards to the price observations at Carrefour on April 8th, 9th and 12th.
“We also consider the fact that our price comparison list garners so much attention as a positive thing. Our intention is to educate and engage the consuming public on exercising their buying power and to stimulate market competition by the power of the wallet. This is what causes retailers to respond. An educated consumer is a powerful market force. So, from the perspective of the Inspectorate, we view this as mission accomplished!”