Spar, Makro, Pick 'n Pay named in coronavirus price gouging crackdown

Authorities are investigating 30 cases of so-called price gouging on price-controlled essentials such as hand sanitisers, masks and toilet paper during the coronavirus outbreak, acting commissioner of the National Consumer Commission Thezi Mabuza told journalists on Wednesday. 

Eleven certificates have been issued to supermarkets including a Spar branch in Silverlakes, Gauteng, for raising the price of Dettol antiseptic; a Spar in Plattekloof, Cape Town for hand sanitiser; North Safety in Cape Town for hand sanitiser; Checkers Hyper in Kempton Park and Makro in Durban for toilet paper; National Overalls in Gauteng for face masks; Bloemfontein Pharmacy in the Free State for gloves; Mopane Pharmacy in Mpumalanga and Seaside Pharmacy in Table View in the Western Cape for face masks; and Pick 'n Pay in Milnerton, Western Cape for hand sanitiser.  

Eight additional certificates were issued on Wednesday, but had not yet been confirmed by the receivers. These were four in Gauteng, on in KwaZulu-Natal, two in the North West Province and one in Limpopo.

"Swift action" would be taken against culprits found guilty of such actions, she said. 

During the inter-ministerial briefing on Wednesday evening, Minister of Trade and Industry Ebranhim Patel added that authorities were cracking down on instances where prices had appeared to rise to a degree that was unjustifiable.

The number of investigations is a sharp spike from Monday, when Minister of Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel said eleven firms were being probed for price gouging. By Tuesday, the Competition Commission said 20 complaints had been received for investigation.

Complaints related to abuse of dominance, or exploitative practices related to the coronavirus crisis, are being handled between the Competition Commission and the National Consumer Commission, which have established a dedicated team.

This occurred after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of national disaster on 15 March and a national lockdown which would be implemented from 26 March. The Competition Commission has said it would scale down operations but prioritise coronavirus-related complaints, as well as the enforcement of regulations gazetted by Patel.

Government on 19 March announced a list of emergency price controls on essential goods required to help manage the coronavirus crisis.

The list of products includes:

  • toilet paper
  • hand sanitiser
  • facial masks
  • disinfectants and cleaners
  • surgical gloves
  • surgical masks
  • disinfectant wipes
  • antiseptic liquids
  • all-purpose cleaners
  • baby formula
  • disposable nappies
  • bleach
  • cooking oils
  • wheat flour
  • rice
  • maize meal
  • pasta
  • sugar
  • long-life milk
  • canned and frozen vegetables
  • canned, frozen and fresh meat, chicken or fish
  • bottled water

Consumers and affected businesses in the supply chain can report any concerns to the regulators through details available on their websites, or through this toll-free no. 0800 014 880.

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