SA lockdown: Watchdog probes hundreds of complaints of excessive pricing by retailers

Long queues at Galleria Mall last week as residents stocked up before the national lockdown. Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)

Long queues at Galleria Mall last week as residents stocked up before the national lockdown. Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 31, 2020

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Johannesburg - The Competition Commission said on Tuesday it was investigating over

300 complaints against retailers and suppliers for charging

excessive prices for essential products during the coronavirus

outbreak.

The majority of complaints related to hand sanitisers and

face masks, followed by toilet paper, flu medication and other

products, the commission said in a statement.

"The Commission is prioritising those cases against national

retailers and suppliers, and also those cases from complainants

who are essential services professionals, such as doctors,

dentists and policepersons," it said.

It has issued over 100 letters to firms, with varying

responses. Some said the price increases were explained as the

difference between December and January promotional pricing,

with prices reverting back to normal in February at the same

time as the coronavirus outbreak.

There are, however, instances where price increases are not

justified and the Commission will pursue enforcement, it said.

On Friday, Massmart, majority owned by Walmart,

announced a price freeze in all its Makro, Cambridge Food, Game

and Cash & Carry stores for the duration of the nationwide,

21-day lockdown.

"The Commission has also noted with concern the spiralling

prices of agricultural products such as wheat, white maize,

sunflower seeds, carrots, onions and tomatoes," it said, adding it was also probing those hikes with traders and suppliers.

Penalties for excessive pricing include up to 10% of a

company's annual turnover for the first offence and up to 25%

for a repeat offence.

Reuters

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coronavirus