According to reports, the Competition Commission of South Africa has referred pharmaceutical retailer, Dis-Chem, to the Competition Tribunal to face prosecution for their excessive pricing during the coronavirus outbreak.
At the end of March, the Commission reportedly started receiving “several complaints from the public against several retail stores owned by Dis-Chem for engaging in excessive pricing of face masks, specifically dusk and surgical masks,” it said.
The complaints lead to an investigation by the Commission which allegedly found that Dis-Chem charged “excessive prices” on essential hygienic goods, which left consumers at a disadvantage.
The investigation established that prior to the declaration of a national state of disaster, Dis-Chem was reportedly selling different types of masks, surgical face masks blue 50PC and surgical face masks 5PC at much lower prices.
According to the Commission, surgical face masks blue 50PC had reportedly been increased by 261% from R43.47 for a unit containing 50 masks in February to R156.95 per unit of 50 masks in March.
The surgical face masks 5PC, on the other hand, were inflated by 43%. In February a unit was sold for R13.27 and was increased to R19.03 in March. These increases inflated the wholesaler’s gross margin from 20% in February to 45% in March.
The Competition Commission previously vowed to crack down on excessive pricing on essential products during the state of disaster.
“People who sell these essential products ought to appreciate that these are literally life-saving items right now. They shouldn’t be exploitative and take advantage of cash strapped consumers during the worst time in our history. We will spare no effort in protecting the consumer,” said Commissioner of the SA Competition Commission, Tembinkosi Bonakele.
The Commission asked the Tribunal to impose a maximum penalty against Dis-Chem.