NATIONAL NEWS - The National Consumer Commission (NCC) working jointly with the Competition Commission have launched an investigation into allegations of price gouging by 30 retailers (19 by the NCC and 11 by the Competition Commission) from different provinces in South Africa.
The investigations follows a number of complaints to the NCC of excessive price hikes on items like hand sanitizers, facial masks, disinfectors and toilet paper, amongst others.
Minister of Trade and Industry. Ebrahim Patel last week published a list of 22 critical products and categories which he instructed both regulators to monitor to ensure no unjustified price increases.
Acting Consumer Commissioner Thezi Mabuza reminded suppliers to be mindful of the provisions of the Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act of 2008.
“The Act sets out its purpose which is, amongst others, to reduce and ameliorate [ease] any disadvantages experienced in accessing supply of goods or services by consumers,” she said.
Both regulators have assembled a team of investigators to investigate these cases. As South Africa is in a state of disaster, these cases have been prioritised.
“Thus, with regards to investigations, we have notified eleven companies of our intention to investigate allegations of excessive price hikes and they have acknowledged our communique,” Mabuza said and confirmed that the investigations into the following companies have started.
The companies under investigation are:
- Silver Oaks SuperSpar - Silverlakes, Pretoria east (Gauteng)
- Spar in Plattekloof - Plattekoof (Western Cape)
- North Safety - Paarden Eiland (Western Cape)
- Checkers Hyper –Kempton Park (Gauteng)
- National Overalls- Villeria Pretoria (Gauteng)
- Makro - Springfield, Durban (KZN)
- Clicks - Westgate Mall (Gauteng)
- Free State Pharmacy- Bloemfontein (Free State),
- Mopane Pharmacy - Nelspruit (Mpumalanga),
- Sea Side Pharmacy - Table View (Western Cape),
- Pick ‘n Pay in Milnerton - Milnerton (Western Cape).
In addition, the NCC will be issuing eight additional investigation certificates (4 in Gauteng,1 in KZN, 2 in North West and 1 in Limpopo). These allegations are also against excessive prices of items or goods like face masks and hand sanitizers.
A fine of up to R1 000 000 or up to 10% of a firm’s annual turnover or even imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months will be imposed to a company/retailer found guilty of price gouging.
Mabuza added that the commission has noted with concern panic buying that is currently happening in light of the looming lockdown tonight. This leads to shortages of basic consumer commodities, and over pricing, or price gouging.
“I urge all South Africans to continue monitoring the market and lodge complaints should they notice a sharp price increase. The NCC’s toll free number is 0800 014 880 or 012 428 700 (office hours).
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