Now Companies are free to raise prices of products and services as per their business cycle without fear of getting caught in the anti-profiteering provision in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) law once they have passed on the benefit of tax rate cuts to consumers. It came at a time when tenure of NAA has been extended as well as penalty for violation has been increased.

As due to lack of guidelines on how to implement anti-profiteering provisions in the Central GST Act, companies are not sure how long they are expected to maintain a price after they reduce price to pass on the benefit of a tax cut to consumers. This is also worrisome for companies that have faced charges of profiteering for specific periods in the past. The law is silent on how long companies have to maintain the reduced price after a tax rate cut. Under GST law, not passing on the benefits of tax rate reduction or availability of input tax credits to consumers by businesses and merchants amounts to profiteering.

The liberty to increase price as per the business cycle will come as a relief to companies, especially large fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) manufacturers that have faced ‘profiteering’ charges under GST law.

Whenever there is a reduction in GST rate, businesses have to pass on the benefit to consumers immediately. Thereafter, companies are free to follow their cycle of price adjustments as they deem fit in line with market forces. There is no lock-in period for maintaining reduced prices.

However, it may not be a very easy task for businesses to defend price increases considering the complexities in the overall business environment and pricing and also may not be sufficient to justify a price increase in case of a profiteering investigation.

The other factor that has got businesses worried is the perpetual nature of the anti-profiteering provision in the CGST Act although the tenure of the NAA is defined. There are certain rumours that the anti-profiteering provision may be administered by any designated government official or agency in a less elaborate way after ending of NAA’s term. The GST Council extended the term of NAA by two years in June, which enables it to continue to work till end of 2021. The Council had also in June decided to let NAA impose a penalty equivalent to 10% of the profiteered amount on those who pocket the tax benefit meant for consumers.