Supermarket subsidy schemes ‘not direct enough’

Supermarket subsidy schemes ‘not direct enough’
The head of the Consumer Council has cast doubt on schemes proposed by Hong Kong’s two dominant supermarket chains that are intended to satisfy concerns about their receipt of millions of dollars in government handouts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

ParknShop has proposed a lucky draw to give out vouchers, while Wellcome has pledged to freeze prices on some 300 products. Gilly Wong, chief executive of the consumer watchdog, said they should take a more direct approach to sharing the HK$100 million in subsidies they received.

Wong said on Sunday that the ParknShop lucky draw wasn’t really a relief measure for the public, and there were questions over issues such as privacy.

As for Wellcome’s price controls, she said: “It depends on the details, because the popularity of the product, the types of product, what price level they are talking about to freeze the price, also what are the 300 items every day?

“All the details will make a difference on the outcome of the ultimate benefit that you can bring to the consumers. The most simple way is to offer a direct discount from the overall bill. That can help them to ease the pressure.”

The two companies had claimed allowances under the Employment Support Scheme, which is intended to help companies struggling amid the pandemic.

Labour and Welfare Secretary Law Chi-kwong said last month that the two companies would be eligible for the support despite not being affected as heavily as other businesses, though they would have to find ways to share the payout with the public.

But he also said Wellcome’s plan to freeze prices would not be part of the rebate scheme.

ParknShop said it was handing out some HK$40 million in food vouchers. It plans to give a HK$200 voucher to low-income families, the elderly and the disabled, with over 200,000 people expected to benefit.

Wellcome says it will hand out HK$80 million worth of cash and meal vouchers.

NGOs and politicians had said the supermarkets should do more to help people living in poverty. Some also criticised the government for giving handouts to big business instead of the public.

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