The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) said it has received complaints from consumers regarding the alleged gouging of prices by some businesses.
On receipt of these complaints, the department said it has tasked a team from its Consumer Protection Unit to conduct an investigation.
MEC Ravi Pillay said where wrongdoing is found, the department will not hesitate to take action which may include fines against those businesses.
“This cannot be a time for profit making. We are calling for a patriotic contribution to the national effort to recover and rebuild.
“Roads, fuel and food security are our immediate tasks. Excessive profiteers are warned that the law provides for severe punishment. We will also publish offenders with the consequence of reputational risk,” said Pillay.
Gouging of prices is prohibited under the Disaster Management Act regulations.
“We understand that due to the disruption of supply lines, some businesses have had to incur additional costs when transporting goods. However, some of the price hikes are allegedly very high and unjustifiable.
“We appeal to businesses to desist from gouging prices, especially of food items, as this has a bearing on food security.
“It is however worth noting that the majority of businesses have rallied behind the ongoing efforts to ensure food security,” said the MEC.
In recent days, Pillay said they have been inspired by many examples of businesses who have partnered with communities to rebuild livelihoods and to assist the poor.