GST roll-out: Anti-profiteering body to be set up in a month

The finance ministry is looking at ways to clear the confusion created by trade over the incidence of GST and the new prices of items under the new indirect tax regime and is in the process of setting up a National Anti-Profiteering Authority to curb unwarranted price hikes.

''The process for selection of members and the chairman will start soon. We are working to ensure that the authority can be set up by early next month, if not this month itself,'' reports quoting official sources said. But, much would depend on how fast the centre and state governments complete the process of putting the necessary infrastructure in place.

The proposed anti-profiteering body will have a three-tier structure, including a standing committee on anti-profiteering, state-level screening committees, and a National Anti-Profiteering Authority.

The National Anti-Profiteering Authority will be empowered to force a company lower its prices and refund money to consumers or deposit it in the Consumer Welfare Fund. It may also impose a penalty and cancel the registration of the company, if found necessary.

A search-cum-selection committee headed by cabinet secretary PK Sinha is reported to be in the process of shortlisting candidates for appointment to the five-member panel, which will then be vetted by the GST Council.

State governments will be setting up respective screening committees to examine complaints forwarded to them.

However, the government expects no major issues with pricing of goods as most companies cooperating in the roll-out of GST, which would be beneficial to them in the long run. Officials expect the situation to stabilise over the next few weeks.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had also said earlier that while the anti-profiteering authority would act as a deterrent the government does not intend to use it unless forced to.

In fact, most auto makers and mobile phone companies have changed prices based on the new tax incidence, although there is still some confusion in pricing of consumer essentials and packaged goods.

As of now, a central monitoring committee of 15 secretary-level officials meets every Tuesday to review the GST rollout, including issues such as prices and supply.