Face mask / surgical mask now retail at RM0.80 nationwide.

Face mask / surgical mask now retail at RM0.80 nationwide.

Surgical masks to help prevent the spread of the Infuenza A (H1N1) virus has become a price-controlled item, according to Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

He told a press conference at his ministry today that with immediate effect, surgical masks had been gazetted until the H1N1 pandemic was over, and that action would be taken against recalcitrant traders.

“In the current situation, the public need masks and the authorities are monitoring the situation. Most importantly, the public must report to the ministry if there are shops selling above the ceiling price,” he said.

According to Ismail, the ministry could take action under the Price Control Act 1946 where individuals found guilty could be fined not more than RM15,000 or jailed up to two years, or both.

Fine RM25,000
Recalcitrant companies can be fined not more than RM25,000.

According to Ismail, consumers could call the ministry’s toll-free number at 1-800-886-800 or visit the nearest ministry office to lodge a complaint against any shop selling at higher prices.

For consumers, he said, the price of the surgical masks ranged from seven sen to RM6 per unit, depending on the quality of the item.

“The wholesale maximum price of a box of One-Ply ear loop (100 pieces) is RM5 while the retail price is RM7. For a box of Two-Ply ear loop, the maximum price is RM8 while the retail price is RM10 or 20 sen a piece.

“For Three-Ply ear loop, the wholesale maximum price is RM25 a box (50 pieces) while the retail is 80 sen a piece. The maximum price for a Three-Ply tie-on is RM30 a box (50 pieces) and the retail is 80 sen per unit,” added Ismail.

The maximum wholesale price for a box of 20 N95 masks is RM100 while the retail price is RM6 a unit.

However, the minister reminded consumers that the health ministry advised against using the One-Ply and Two-Ply surgical masks as it was ineffective to prevent the spread of H1N1.

Asked whether he thought the price of the surgical masks was fair, Ismail said the sellers would still be able to make a profit, adding that the need of the many was more important than the need of a few.

As to the fact that many pharmacies no longer have enough stocks of the surgical masks, Ismail stated that currently the government is in the process of importing more stocks to meet the demands of the public.

“We know there is not enough supply in the market and we are importing more,” he said. — BERNAMA