Thirty companies are being investigated for price gouging linked to the coronavirus outbreak.
The National Consumer Commission (NCC) is investigating 19 retailers, while the Competition Commission is investigating 11.
“The NCC through its call center received a number of complaints of excessive price hikes on items like hand sanitizers, facial masks; Detoll and toilet paper, among others, from consumers,” it said.
Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel previously published a list of 22 critical products and categories whom he instructed both regulators to monitor to ensure there were no unjustified price increases, the two bodies said.
Both regulators have assembled a team of investigators to investigate.
Acting consumer commissioner Thezi Mabuza said the commission had a critical role to play during this time of need.
“SA is in a state of disaster; we are therefore prioritizing these cases. Thus, with regards to investigations, we have notified the following 11 companies of our intention to investigate allegations of excessive price hikes and they have acknowledged our communique,” the NCC statement said.
These are the companies being investigated:
- Silver Oaks SuperSpar — Silverlakes, Pretoria East (Gauteng);
- Spar in Platterkloof — Platterkoof (Western Cape);
- North Safety — Paarden Eiland (Western Cape);
- Checkers Hyper ——Kempton Park (Gauteng);
- National Overalls- Villeria Pretoria (Gauteng);
- Makro — Springfield, Durban (KZN);
- Clicks — Westgate Mall (Gauteng);
- Free State Pharmacy- Bloemfontein (Free State);
- Mopane Pharmacy — Nelspruit (Mpumalanga);
- Sea Side Pharmacy — Table View (Western Cape); and
- Pick n Pay in Milnerton — Milnerton (Western Cape).
In addition, the NCC will be issuing eight additional investigation certificates (four in Gauteng, one in KwaZulu-Natal, two in the North West and one in Limpopo).
“These allegations are also against the excessive price of items or goods like face masks and hand sanitizers. A fine of up to R1m or up to 10% of a firm’s annual turnover, or even imprisonment for up to 12 months will be imposed on a company/retailer found guilty of price gouging,” the NCC said.
Mabuza added that the commission had noted with concern the panic buying happening ahead of the lockdown from Thursday. Such activity led to shortages of basic consumer commodities, and overpricing, or price gouging.