Among many things dominating the news headlines alongside the Covid-19 are news reports of the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection Management punishing firms for cheating customers. With increasing complaints of high prices of goods, many businesses; vegetable sellers, retailers, fruit shops, and supermarkets are facing penalties. However, sporadic inspections do little to protect consumers from being ripped off by fraudulent businesses. What it does, instead, is create an environment of fear for businesses.
Market inspections are carried out to ensure quality control of goods as well as keep fraudulent businesses in check. When the inspection is intensified during festival seasons like Dashain and Tihar or the lockdown, it is easy to believe the department is doing it just for the show. We can question the intention of these inspections; do they intend to control possible anomalies in the market and protect consumer welfare or do they want to teach firms a lesson by heavily penalizing one of them? Inspections conducted haphazardly cannot ensure that all the wrongdoers are punished. The wide discretionary powers enjoyed by monitoring officers also lends to the threatening environment for businesses. This can only harm lawful businesses, while unethical practices go unchecked. Thus, we need a year-round, regular, and transparent market inspection mechanism.