NATIONAL NEWS - The commission issued a press release with details on the charges against Dis-Chem. Dischem Pharmacies is accused of, and will be charged by the tribunal with, contravening section 8(1)(a) of the Competition Act.
According to competition commissioner Thembinkosi Bonakele, the commission received several complaints from the public from 28 March.
These complaints were against several retail stores owned by Dis-Chem. The commission established that, before the national state of disaster, Dis-Chem had been selling different types of face masks.
According to its statement, 50-piece blue surgical face masks were sold at R43.47 (excluding VAT) in February. More recently, these sold at R156.95 (excluding VAT).
“This is a price increase of 261 per cent,” Bonkele indicated in the statement.
The commission alleges that the same thing happened with surgical face masks sold in batches of five units each. The average price was reportedly increased from R13.27 (excluding VAT) to R19.03 (excluding VAT). This, the commission said, constituted a 43 per cent price increase.
It has asked the tribunal for a maximum penalty against Dis-Chem. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical giant has roped in its legal team and economic experts to oppose the complaint referral.
Saltzman said that the information and data provided to the commission during its investigation does not establish any contravention of the Competition Act. “Dis-Chem’s pricing is within regulated guidelines and does not engage in price-gouging or excessive price-fixing.
“Dis-Chem will be responding, in detail, to the allegations in the referral in due course. Dis-Chem can assure its customers that during this unprecedented time, it continues to offer all products, including high-demand essential items, at affordable prices that deliver value.
“We will spare no effort in protecting the consumer,” said Bonakele.
“People who sell these essential products ought to appreciate that these are literally life- saving items right now. They shouldn’t be exploitative and take advantage of cash-strapped consumers during the worst time in our history.”
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