Dis-Chem Pharmacies, Johannesburg, has been slapped with R1.2 million administrative penalty for charging excessive prices for surgical face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic. This fine was imposed by the Competition Tribunal.
The Tribunal said that Dis-Chem contravened section 8(1)(a) of the Competition Act (the Act) in that it charged an excessive price for three types of surgical face masks SFM 50, SFM 5 and Folio50 to the detriment of consumers during March.
The Competition Commission accused Dis-Chem of abusing its dominance and charging excessive prices for surgical masks to the detriment of customers and consumers. Dis-Chem denied the commission’s claims.
The commission charged Dis-Chem had hiked the price of surgical face masks by up to 261 percent
The tribunal today concluded that the commission had shown that Dis-Chem had engaged in excessive pricing to the detriment of consumers..
The tribunal said material price increases of between 47 percent to 261 percent without corresponding increases in costs of any goods in a country such as South Africa with a long history of economic exclusion and deep inequality would seriously affect the public interest adversely.
“Material price increases of surgical masks, without corresponding costs justifications, in the context of Covid-19 for which there is no discernible cure and where health services are skewed towards the wealthy, would seriously impact vulnerable and poorer consumers even more. Poorer customers would have been excluded from accessing the masks by such exorbitant increases, other customers would have spent more on these items as a percentage of their disposable income,” said the tribunal.