Price fixing

2008-02-18 00:00

First bread, then milk and now pharmaceuticals. Three major firms benefiting from public tenders worth R665 million are due to be prosecuted for collusion over prices and market allocation in the health-care sector. Overcharging of R4 per unit on intravenous fluid is given as an example.

The firms are alleged to have conspired, secretly and illegally, to rig the free market in order to extract excessive profit. They are also said to have paid off one another when their planned arrangements did not work out. Such behaviour in a service as crucial as health is reprehensible.

Cosatu has justifiably labelled price fixing an affliction of business akin to cancer. When it affects basic goods and services it goes to the heart of the democratic system, undermining good governance and diminishing the possibility of socio-economic justice. Should charges be proved, there is a moral case for both punishment and realistic compensation.

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