Portugal’s Government is to restrict to 15 percent the profit margin from the sale of medical devices and protective equipment, as well as ethyl alcohol and alcohol-based hand gel.
The statute setting the limit was signed on Friday by the ministers of state, economy and digital transition and of health, and is to remain in place as long as the declaration of a state of emergency is maintained.
The ceiling of 15 percent is applied to profit in the wholesale and retail sale of medical devices and personal protective equipment, as well as ethyl alcohol and alcohol-based disinfectant gel for use on human skin.
Companies based in Portugal have, since Monday, been working under exceptional and temporary rules for the design, manufacture, import and national marketing of medical devices and personal protective equipment, with the publication of Decree-Law no. 14-E/2020, of April 13th.
This gives the minister of economy, together with the minister for the sector in question, the power to determine necessary exceptional measures to contain and limit the market, including the possibility of a ceiling on profit margins in the sale of certain products.
In a statement, the Government explains that in order to monitor compliance with the law and so ensure public health, food safety, consumer protection and the rules of fair competition, the Economic and Food Safety Authority (ASAE) is to continue its work on the ground and has made available a specific form to simplify the submission of complaints and reports of infringements relating to Covid-19 that can be found at https://www.asae.gov.pt/denuncias-covid-19-.aspx.
ASAE has received some 4,500 complaints in a month, 75 percent of them in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, mostly about alleged speculative pricing of products such as face masks, alcohol and alcohol gel.
According to ASAE data, between March 13th and April 14th complaints were also received regarding the practice of the crime of disobedience, in the context of specific rules defined in the framework of the state of emergency currently in force, and others regarding non-compliance with general and specific hygiene requirements.
ASAE has so far inspected some 280 economic agents and started 15 criminal proceedings for the practice of making illegitimate profits on products such as alcohol gel and masks, as well as 13 administrative offence proceedings.
The criminal cases have been reported to the office of public prosecutions, while the administrative offences are under investigation and 26 notifications are still under review.
Last week, ASAE announced that it had found a company selling accessories for and repairs to mobile phones in Lisbon that was selling alcohol gel with profit margins of between 300 and 400 percent.
At that time, ASAE also said that other situations had been detected in which the illegitimate profit “exceeds, in some cases, 1,000 percent.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has so far claimed more than 145,000 lives and infected more than 2.1 million people in 193 countries and territories.
Portugal has had 657 deaths associated with Covid-19 and 19,022 confirmed infections with the new coronavirus, according to Friday’s bulletin from the health authorities.