Government has just announced strict new regulations to prevent price gouging during the coronavirus crisis.
According to new regulations as part of the Disaster Management Act, signed by minister of trade and industry Ebrahim Patel on Thursday, companies are not allowed to hike prices for a list of goods by more than the increases in the cost to produce these products.
They are also not allowed to hike their profit margins on these products to above the average mark-ups during the three months to 1 March 2020.
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
- cooking oils
- wheat flour
- maize meal
- long-life milk
- canned and frozen vegetables
- canned, frozen and fresh meat, chicken or fish
- bottled water
Prices for private medical services relating to the testing, prevention and treatment of the coronavirus will also be covered by the new regulations.
Culprits could face fines of up to R1 million or 10% of a firm’s turnover, and imprisonment for up to 12 months.
Suppliers must also ensure the "equitable distribution" of goods to consumers and customers, including small businesses, and must also maintain adequate stocks of goods.
South Africa has seen scenes of widespread panic buying in recent days.
The new regulations also mention that maximum prices could be set on private medical goods and services relating to the testing, prevention and treatment of Covid-19.