NCC urges consumers to file complaints on suspicions of ginger and garlic price gouging
Durban - THE National Consumer Commission said this week it was investigating seven major suppliers of garlic and ginger on allegations of price gouging.
The NCC spokesperson Phetho Ntaba said an investigation was launched into the allegations following a public outcry by consumers carried in the media including social media platforms regarding alleged excessive prices of both products by various suppliers.
“The law defines price gouging as an unfair or unreasonable price increase that does not correspond to or is not equivalent to the increase in the cost of providing that good or service,” said Ntaba.
The NCC said investigations had commenced into the following companies: Food Lovers Market, the Spar Group, Pick n Pay, the Shoprite Group, Boxer Superstores, Cambridge Foods and Woolworths.
“Our investigation is not limited to these suppliers. We urge consumers throughout the country to monitor the market and where they suspect excessive price increase, they must file complaints with the commission.”
These allegations, if proven true, would constitute a violation of Regulation 350 and an imposition fine of up to R1 million or up to 10 percent of a supplier’s annual turnover or even imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months.
Consumer and Customer Protection and National Disaster Management Regulations and Directions, issued in terms of Regulation 350 of Government Notice 43116, contained a list of 22 essential products, which a supplier must not charge unfair or unreasonable prices.
This was done to protect consumers against unconscionable, unfair, unreasonable, unjust or improper commercial practices during the national disaster.
The Acting Consumer Commissioner Thezi Mabuza said the commission initiated this investigation following a public outcry.
In March last year the the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) gazetted regulations, which clearly defined and prohibited excessive prices as well as unfair prices for a range of essential goods and services..
Last year, the Dtic’s spokesman, Sidwell Medupe, said the department’s work during the lockdown and subsequently had focused on ensuring food prices did not increase excessively.
“The aim has been to identify and address instances of what is sometimes called price gouging: when a producer raises prices in order to take advantage of a crisis or disaster, rather than because their own costs have increased.”
The dtic and its agencies said they continued to monitor price trends for excessive price increases in product groups. Where increases were identified, closer investigations could then be carried out to determine whether price increases are warranted by changes in input costs or not.