Durban – The Competition Commission said on Friday that South African pharmaceutical retailer Dis-Chem had made the right call when it withdrew its appeal after being found guilty of price gouging.
Shortly after the start of the national Covid-19 lockdown in March, the Competition Commission reported to have received numerous complaints from the public against Dis-Chem for hiking the price of face masks.
Dis-Chem Pharmacies was found guilty on July 7 by the Competition Tribunal for inflating the price of its face masks.
“I am pleased that Dis-Chem has made this decision. The price increases that occurred during the state of national disaster were regrettable. We believe that the tribunal made the right call by condemning the conduct.
“We have been consistent in arguing that price gouging in a pandemic deprives consumers, particularly poor consumers, of access to essential goods that are necessary to prevent a further escalation of the pandemic,” said competition commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele.
After investigating, the commission found that Dis-Chem was charging excessive prices on essential hygienic goods to the detriment of consumers.
This, according to the commission, was a contravention of Section 8(1)(a) of the Competition Act read with Regulation 4 of the Consumer Protection Regulations.
These essential items included surgical face masks blue (50-pack), surgical face masks (5-pack) and surgical face masks folio dress blue.
The commission said that prior to the lockdown, Dis-Chem sold these masks at a “far lower” price.
“For surgical face mask blue 50PC the average price was inflated from R43.47 (excl. VAT) per unit (50 masks) in February 2020 to R156.95 (excl. VAT) per unit (50 masks) in March 2020, a price increase of 261%.
“The surgical face masks 5PC, the average price increased from R13.27 (excl. VAT) per unit (5 masks) in February 2020 to R19.03 (excl. VAT) per mask (1 mask) in March 2020, a price increase of 43%,” said the commissioner.
“Dis-Chem’s surgical face masks folio dress blue prices increased by 25% while costs declined by 0.1%.”
African News Agency