Due to the rapid expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey and worldwide, demand for protective masks, sanitisers, cleaning products and foodstuff significantly increased. Some companies exorbitantly and inequitably increased prices of such goods, substances and materials, which the consumers intensively demanded during this outbreak.
The Advertisement Board, in March 2020, ordered a decision for suspension of the referred actions and imposition of 10.090.060 Turkish liras administrative monetary fine, since these acts constitute unfair commercial practice as per Turkish Consumer Protection Law and the Advertising Regulation, for 198 businesses that have exorbitantly increased the prices of masks, disinfectants, colognes, wet wipes and foodstuff more than a moderate increase in their costs, without any acceptable ground against the professional care standards contrary to the normal functioning of the market and in a way which is negatively affecting the usual purchasing behaviour of the consumers.
As per Article 62 of Turkish Consumer Protection Law, if a commercial practice does not comply with the requirements of professional care and significantly damages or is highly likely to damage the economic course of conduct of the ordinary consumer or target group it aims for, it shall be deemed as unfair. The annexe of the Advertising Regulation titled Practices Deemed as Unfair Commercial Practices lists non-exhaustive examples of unfair commercial practices. Accordingly, increasing the sales prices of the goods and services presented to consumers without reasonable grounds by indicating that the increase results from changes such as input cost and the exchange rate, even though the sale price is unaffected by these changes, constitutes an unfair commercial practice.
Indeed, in response to the intense demand of consumers for masks, colognes, disinfectants and foodstuffs with the concern of individual struggle with the pandemic, the fact that the sellers choose to increase the prices unfairly beyond the costs may cause the product prices to rise and the supply of these products, which have become a basic need, to become more difficult or extremely expensive in the future. As a result, this situation may disrupt the normal functioning of the market and the sellers implementing unfair price increases may adversely affect both the security of the supply chain and the prices of those products. Such market-distorting practices are generally considered unfair commercial practices within the scope of the Advertising Regulation, and the administrative sanctions imposed by the Advertisement Boards against these actions during the pandemic are crucial measures in terms of consumer protection.