Taiwan's govt to act if collusion proven in toilet paper price hikes

Taipei, Feb. 24 (CNA) Taiwan's cabinet, the Executive Yuan, has vowed to act if it finds local toilet paper vendors have colluded to raise prices without good reason.In a statement released on Friday, the Executive Yuan said the government's price stabilization task force under the Cabinet has asked the Fair Trade Commission (FTC), the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and the Consumer Protection Committee to look into an announcement made by toilet paper brands earlier in the day that they intend to raise prices.Retailers in Taiwan, including large-sized hypermarket operators, said they have been informed by toilet paper suppliers that product prices will rise by 10-30 percent, starting from mid-March at the earliest due to a spike in pulp prices in the international market.After the price adjustments, consumers are expected to have to pay NT$260 (US$8.87) for every 12 pack of inter-fold toilet paper or tissue in one package, up from the current NT$200.In Taiwan, toilet paper come in packs, not rolls, and are also used as tissue.The product price hike announcement has triggered an outcry among many local consumers.Local TV showed consumers scrambling to buy toilet paper before the prices increase, with some loading bags of the product in their shopping cart.The FTC said it will take a close look at whether these toilet paper suppliers have been involved in a price collusion, which could undermine market order. If so, the commission will take any necessary action to maintain market order and protect consumers' interests, it said.The FTC said that based on the local fair trade act, violators are expected to face punishment.For its part, the MOEA said some tissue paper vendors raised their product prices by 5-8 percent last year in reflection of more expensive pulp prices and other brands announced they would follow suit this year.To its knowledge, the MOEA said short fiber pulp used for production of tissue paper rose to US$800 per ton on average as of February from US$650 seen a year earlier due to an imbalance in supply and demand.The MOEA said it will continue to monitor pulp price fluctuations in the global market as well as tissue paper prices in the domestic market and keep discussing with makers in a bid to lower the financial burden shouldered by consumers.YFY Inc., one of the largest tissue paper suppliers in Taiwan, said prices of pulp which accounts for a majority of production costs, have risen by more than 50 percent since mid-2017, and keep rising. Even worse is that transportation and packaging costs have also been increasing, so it has no choice but to raise product prices, the company said.It insisted its decision was based on the market situation. In response to the planned price hike, some distributors said they will provide discounts on tissue paper purchases in a bid to assuage the impact on consumers.