By Patrícia Cosentino
The declaration of pandemic and state of public calamity in Brazil in March 2020 gave rise to many problems and abuses that have been faced by costumers. It´s important to highlight that those abusive practices are forbidden by article 39 of the Consumer Defense Code, specially when it comes to increasing the prices of products and services without fair cause.
So, the current situation the country faces made consumers increase their search for basic products due to the risk of stockout. Because of that, some providers took this chance to increase profits when selling the most-wanted products, specially hand sanitizers, surgical masks, soaps, cleaning products and basic food such as eggs, rice and beans. The significant increase in the prices of products and services regarded as essential also happened in the e-commerce.
The truth is that, one week after the declaration of public calamity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, readjustments of up to 70% in Brazilian basic need products were reported. So, Procon started to intensify inspections in business facilities and they confirmed many irregularities concerning prices. In addition, they found precarious situations in hygiene and sanitary conditions, irregular storage of products, etc.
The abusive increase constitutes violation of the Consumer Defense Code and the business facilities are subjected to penalties anticipated by the mentioned legislation, which include fines and the interdiction of those facilities, besides configuring crime against the popular economy. It also strongly intensifies the unbalance between provider and consumer.
Recently, Procon in São Paulo has informed that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 14,000 complaints were made, and from March to May they registered 6,000 complaints and 8,000 requests for orientation, doubts and reports. Most of the 6,000 complaints are against travel agencies, airline companies, supermarkets and drugstores, which totals 89% of the complaints.
So, it´s important to highlight that the aggrieved consumer shall file a complaint at Procon in their city through the telephone 151, or directly in the website, which provides an electronic service channel for complaints.
* Patrícia Cosentino is a lawyer at Almeida Prado & Hoffmann Advogados Associados Office.