Prosecutors to investigate bakery price hike collusion

The China Post news staff

Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday resolved to investigate a surprising rise of 15-20 percent in local retail prices of various bread products to see if there are any illegal price-jacking practices being employed by local bakeries.

This will be the first investigation of its kind launched by prosecutors to counter numerous complaints from local citizens about the unreasonable hikes for some commodity prices.

Prosecutors will today move to collect concrete evidence against those bakeries allegedly hiking the prices of their bread products by up to 20 percent despite the fact that international wheat prices have declined by over 10 percent.

The Ministry of Justice recently instructed all the prosecutors’ offices around the island to dispatch prosecutors to investigate alleged illegal price-jacking schemes by dealers of commodity prices and bring them to justice

Accordingly, the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office sent representatives to visit the Cabinet-level Fair Trade Commission (FTC) last week to check the data concerning international prices of raw materials, and set up windows for coordinating with the FTC and the Council of Agriculture to facilitate related investigations.

The data showed that flour import prices declined in April from a year earlier, but local bakeries have recently raised their bread prices.

The finding prompted Taipei prosecutors to zero in on bakeries to see if they’re engaged in a collective price-jacking scheme.

In response, Chang Kuo-jung, chairman of the Taipei Bakery Association, said he “welcomed” prosecutors to investigate member bakeries of the association, adding that they’re absolutely not engaged in recklessly raising sales prices. Chang said that flour is just part of a bakery’s operating costs, which also includes personnel costs and store space rental. Chang stressed that his association won’t interfere in price adjustments by member bakeries, and he urged the government to allow the market to determine sale prices of bread and cake products.

On another front, most bakeries noted that they were forced to raise their prices partly to reflect the increased flour procurement prices quoted by upstream flour processing plants.

In this regard, the Consumers’ Foundation said that the FTC should take the initiative to investigate to see if the upstream flour suppliers have collectively raised flour prices despite a decline in flour import costs.

Meanwhile, Shuen Cheng Bakery, a noted local brand, said that his company has yet to announce a price-hike plan, and is quite willing to support the government’s measures designed to stabilize domestic commodity prices.