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October 25, 2014
Monday, February 17, 2014

Gov’t looks into ‘Price Watch’ microchips

A shopper is seen passing through the lanes of a supermarket where products are marked with “Price Watch” signage.

Trade Secretariat officials meet with tech companies to discuss control system

More than 100 electronics firms met with Domestic Trade Secretary technicians last week to discuss the installation of microchips on supermarket tills in order to boost the government’s control over its Price Watch scheme.

The companies reportedly submitted a proposal to Trade Secretary Augusto Costa’s team on a device called the Electronic Audit System for the Control of Prices and Supply (AEPA), which would allow the Fernández de Kirchner administration to rapidly detect supermarkets’ or suppliers’ breach of the price agreement established last month.

According to local daily Tiempo Argentino, the meeting with tech companies in question took place on Thursday, with the companies setting the objective of completing production of such devices within three months time.

A data storage plaque would be installed on supermarkets’ cash registers, between the barcode scanner and the fiscal unit that relays data to the AFIP tax bureau.

The devices would be set up at some 2,000 outlets belonging to 60 companies, as these currently have the technical requisites for such devices to be set up. Transaction information — product description, name and price — would automatically be sent to Costa’s secretariat.

According to Tiempo Argentino, government sources said the companies were given 60 days to present 50 prototypes of the AEPA in order to select the best suitable and begin manufacturing.

Each unit’s price would weigh in at US$150, and the government is mulling over subsidizing their commercialization.

Equipping large supermarket chains such as Jumbo and Carrefour would be the government’s initial objective, as such outlets are the most indicative gauges of consumption.

Such technology would complement the president’s call for citizens to patrol prices against what her government describes as speculative hikes.

The head of state made headlines last week for calling up consumers who complained on her Facebook page over technical problems with the hotline set up for citizens to denounce breaches of the price agreement by supermarkets.

A free app designed by two university students is helping consumers by scanning bar codes to find evidence of overpricing. The “Precios OK” software appears to be an instant hit, with downloads in Argentina surpassing that of “Candy Crush” and “Instagram” in the Android store this week.

—Herald with DyN, Télam

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