The Director of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading, Mr Chris Batt, has today announced the outcomes of an investigation into allegations of overcharging by the operator of a Nubeena store in the immediate aftermath of the recent bushfires.
'In the last few days, staff from my office have spoken with customers and staff of the store, as well members of the State Emergency Service (SES) and the Australian Federal Police. Based on all the information provided to us, we are confident that the allegations against Mr Branco Alilovic about selling donated goods and overcharging for items in the days following the fire are without substance. I am pleased to find that there is no evidence to suggest any dishonesty or profiteering on the part of Mr Alilovic', Mr Batt said.
'Mr Alilovic has cooperated fully with our investigation, initiating contact and meeting with us voluntarily to address the allegations made against him. It was obvious in these discussions that he is deeply troubled by the allegations and has suffered greatly as a result of them, including being harassed and berated by people within the community and on social media', Mr Batt said.
'Mr Alilovic opened his store at the request of SES, despite having no electricity and therefore being unable to operate the scanner or cash register. Mr Alilovic explained that staff endeavoured to serve customers by recalling or estimating the prices for goods and has acknowledged that some people may have been overcharged during this time, but also suggests that there were likely to be instances where people were undercharged', explained Mr Batt.
Mr Alilovic has offered to provide a refund to anyone who believes they may have been overcharged for items purchased from his store during this time.
'Information provided to my office from within the community, including SES volunteers, indicates that Mr Alilovic was simply trying to do the best he could in very challenging circumstances. My office will take very seriously any reports of profiteering in bushfire affected communities; such conduct can attracts fines of up to $220,000 for individuals and $1.1 million for corporations', Mr Batt explained.
Anyone who suspects profiteering or thinks that a price or price rise is excessive or unreasonable should first ask the trader to explain the reasons for the price. If you are not satisfied with the trader’s response, contact Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading on 1300 65 44 99.
15 January 2013