Competition commission sees spike in price gouging claims
Johannesburg - The National Consumer Commission has seen a spike in complaints received alleging price gouging from the public during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Briefing a joint meeting of parliamentary committees on Tuesday, acting commissioner Thezi Mabuza said they received 2900 calls on their Covid-19 toll-free hotline with 2 533 calls being answered and 367 either abandoned or cancelled.
"Of the 2 533 complaints received to date, 1 618 complaints alleged price gouging relating to regulated essential products," Mabuza said.
"The remaining 915 complaints were not related to the regulation. These were referred to the relevant platforms," she said.
Mabuza said Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape led with more than 1 000 complaints.
The complaints ranged centred around food and hygiene products, gloves, hand sanitisers and face masks.
Mabuza said the commission has approved 127 investigations and that 29 were completed.
"Of the 29 investigations completed, 11 matters were closed and will not be referred to the (Competition) Tribunal as no contraventions of the regulation were found and settlement was reached between the Competition Commission and respondents on the same products. "
A total of eight matters were referred to the Competition Tribunal and settlement.
Mabuza told the MPs that the costs associated with the toll-free hotline amounted to R65 000 and that R450 000 had been allocated for attorneys.
She noted that most consumers were spared the price gouging after the Department of Trade and Industry promulgated the regulations.
Mabuza also said the actual monetary benefit to consumers could not be quantified.
"However, it is of significant importance that government responded immediately to protect consumers from unscrupulous suppliers.
"By preventing unwarranted price increases, the already reduced income of many consumers could be stretched further," she said.