The Commerce Ministry said Wednesday it has ordered all provinces to find vendors participating in the “Let’s Go Halves” co-pay scheme who raised prices in an effort to grab a larger subsidy.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit said the Ministry of Commerce has been receiving complaints of vendors participating in the co-pay campaign who allegedly priced their items higher than usual or failed to put up a clear price display in an attempt to receive a bigger payment from the government.
The fraud is nearly identical to that being perpetrated in the government’s subsidized travel program, where more than 500 hotels are being prosecuted for raising rooms rates or perpetrating other schemes to defraud the government.
The Finance Ministry last week disclosed that about 700 vendors and buyers abused the co-payment scheme. It detected the irregularities through a transaction system of Krungthai Bank and people’s complaints. It asked the police to monitor the suspects.
Pol. Maj. Gen. Maitree Chimcherd, commander of the Economic Crime Suppression Division, said the Finance Ministry filed its complaint on the matter last month and police arrested one suspect who was a vendor in Mahachai area of Samut Sakhon province – the area now in the spotlight for the coronavirus outbreak.
Damage was limited because the bank detected irregularities early and froze money transactions related to them, he said.
The co-payment scheme is one of the government’s economic stimulus measures. Participants can buy food, drinks and other products at small shops and the government subsidizes 50 of their payment, limited at 150 baht a day and at the total of 3,500 baht from January to March next year.
Jurin said he has ordered all provincial commercial affairs offices to inspect shops and vendors in their areas for price gouging or any other fraudulent activities. Vendors found guilty of these actions could face up to 140,000 baht fine, or a maximum seven years imprisonment, or both.
The commerce minister urged all participating vendors to strictly adhere to the campaign’s terms and conditions, in order to help the public cut down on living expenses while helping vendors generate more income.
Customers can lodge a complaint against a vendor by calling the 1569 hotline, where their complaint will be looked into by officials, who will press charges against any vendors found to have violated the campaign’s rules or the law.
The story combines reports from Thai News Agency and the National News Bureau of Thailand.