Saudi merchants worried by web boycotts over price hikes
Online campaigns against goods subject to steep price increases are working, economists say
Social media campaigns against merchants selling certain goods are proving to be successful, economists told Makkah daily on Tuesday.
The economists believed the drop in the sales of certain items was a direct result of these campaigns, which had a great influence on both traders and the consumers.
Mohammad Solaiman, an owner of a supermarket in Jeddah, said they had no buyers for the products of a certain milk company as a result of an online campaign against the 10 percent increase in their prices.
“The boycott continued for a month, during which the company’s products stockpiled in our shop."
“The products expired and we had to return them to the company, which gave in and lowered their prices to their previous levels," he said.
A member of the traders’ committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), however, doubted these online boycott campaigns had been successful.
“These campaigns have affected barely 20 percent of products,” said Jameel Abdulaziz Mirza.
He said in order for the boycott campaigns to succeed, they must be supported by the Commerce Ministry.
“The ministry will know the ploys of some producers which, instead of rising prices, reduce the size of their packages and containers,” he said.
Fadl Al-Buainain, an economic analyst, warned some campaigns might completely destroy a product. “The credibility and neutrality of the campaign must be thoroughly checked before we can take it seriously,” he said.
Al-Buainain said the campaigns might have a negative impact on both investors and consumers, especially if they claim that a particular product is unsafe.
“Once they break out, it would be very difficult to stop these campaigns,” he said.
Faisal Al-Aqeel, an economist, said consumers have become very vigilant, especially when the prices of many commodities such as foodstuffs have gone up without any justification. “The campaigners have joined hands in their boycott of the commodities whose prices have been unnecessarily raised,” he said.
Al-Aqeel believed the campaigns could negatively impact sales by at least 50 percent and said the campaigners can now communicate with each other in a matter of seconds thanks to social media.
Manal Al-Sharif, supervisor of the Consumer Protection Committee in Makkah, said campaigns against the excessively high prices of products have been very successful.
“The campaigners have become a real power that has caused traders to think twice before they dare increase the price of any commodity,” she said.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 29, 2013