Public fumes after pharmacies charging them higher than MRP

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SHILLONG, March 10: In a blatant case of extortion, medical pharmacies in the town are allegedly charging their customers over and above the MRP. Affected customers complained that these pharmacies are reasoning that with the implementation of GST, they are compelled to charge extra percentage on MRP and claimed that this practice is a legal one. Whereas MRP or Maximum Retail Price means a trader cannot charge over and above the price mentioned on the body of medicine packets, it has come to light that the pharmacies in the town are making their own rules in the name of GST and overcharging customers.

Those who are bearing the brunt have alleged that they are being charged extra over MRP by some pharmacies operating adjacent to Bijou Cinema Hall in Police Bazar and also few from the Greater Laitumkhrah area of the city. Infuriated customers said these pharmacies should be booked for practicing illegal trade in broad daylight. These customers are asking whether the MRP has become redundant after the implementation of GST that they are compelled to purchase medicines with added GST on the MRP making the items more costly.

“How can a pharmacy charge more than the MRP mentioned on the body of medicine packs,” asked angry customers who are being overcharged for commonly used drugs by the pharmacies in the town.

It is often heard that customers have to shell out more at cinema halls, airports, tourist destinations and even at the railways stations but that the same will extend to retail outlets amounts to “gross and illegitimate collection by extorting gullible consumers”, observed many. In such a situation, agitated consumers are demanding stringent action against the pharmacies by the authorities concerned.

When asked, experts in the field informed that Rule 2(m) of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules clearly states that the MRP at which the commodity may be sold to the ultimate consumer, which is inclusive of all taxes. Also, Rule 18(2) says that no trader can charge higher than the MRP and under the consumer protection act, one can file a complaint against retailers who sell at a price higher than the MRP.

Meanwhile, sources from the pharmaceutical industry said that pharmacies are not supposed to charge their customer in addition to the MRP since the union government has fixed the ceiling price of the drugs under the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) making it affordable to most.

Doctors from the town, on the other hand, alleged that they have heard about profiteering tactics by pharmaceutical companies but the trend of overcharging customers on MRP is “another example of profit making strategies adopted by pharmacies in town.”

Meanwhile, pharmacy sources from the town clarified that there are certain non-scheduled drugs, which can be sold over and above the MRP, which according to medical doctors should not exceed more than 10%. Affected consumers on the other hand contradicted this version because they claimed that they are being charged more than 10% by the pharmacies.

In this regard, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has even acknowledged overcharging in the past but that was from the side of the pharmaceutical companies and not pharmacies. In this regard, another pharmacy source from Police Bazar said that they are forced to charge more since the pharmaceutical companies are charging the traders more.