DCCI urges businesses to maintain food and commodity prices at fixed levels
DURBAN - The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that they are aware that there have been increased reports and allegations about price gouging and other unethical business practices.
The chamber has urged all businesses to pledge to maintain food and commodity prices at fixed and affordable levels as the national lockdown continues to have a significant impact on local, provincial and national economies as well as the global economy.
"We encourage the local business community to work with the government to maintain a stable pricing regime. Both direct and indirect suppliers of goods and services are bound by the Consumer Protection Act, and it is essential that businesses supply reliable, safe and quality goods and services to avoid adverse consequences. Price gouging is exploitative and unethical," said Nigel Ward, President of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Covid-19 outbreak is an unprecedented national emergency and the business community, as a critical stakeholder and role player in South African society, needs to play its part in working with the government to support society at large. The government has taken measures to ensure the health and safety of the populace, and it is up to business to support government structures and that we all make it through this pandemic.
Ward said, "We warn offending businesses to consider not only the financial repercussions of legal action being brought to bear on them but the fact that there will also definitely be extended reputational damage sustained by non-complying companies, their owners and senior employees".
The Durban Chamber also recommends to all businesses that this is the ideal time to review all the applicable laws and current emergency regulations, re-evaluate current pricing strategies and practices, and develop risk management plans and procedures for dealing with enforcement agencies and the media.
The chamber is also encouraging all members to abide by the Durban Chamber Members' Code of Conduct and Members' Code of Ethics.
Nomusa Dube Ncube, MEC of KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs said, "All businesses operating during the lockdown must ensure they understand the central role their customer plays and aim for a culture of fairness in dealing with them. Businesses should bear in mind the vulnerability of consumers under the current circumstances".
Any business that is part of the supply chain that puts products and services in the hands of a consumer is affected in terms of the CPA and can be held accountable for violating the consumer regulations issued by the Minister of Trade and Industry. Inflating prices of goods stipulated in terms of the annexures to the regulations is an offence. It's important note that, even if a company doesn't interact with the end consumer directly, that they are still bound by the CPA and the consumer regulations.
Businesses must communicate in plain language with customers. If the information provided is incomplete, incorrect or even just difficult to understand, businesses could be breaking the CPA. It is important to look at every type of communication to make sure there is no room left for misunderstanding.
The high number of fake or counterfeit sanitisers is of great concern. Businesses that are supplying these hazardous products must refrain from doing so immediately.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE