Coronavirus: Consumers must report crazy price hikes amid panic buying

Coronavirus: Consumers must report crazy price hikes amid panic buying

- South Africans have joined the panic buying frenzy in light of the coronavirus, leaving many shop shelves bare of canned foods, hand sanitisers, gloves and masks

- Consumers have been urged to report instances of exorbitant price hikes in the face of desperation concerning the coronavirus

- The body that deals with these instances is the Consumer Commission, to which reports must be directed

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By Neesha Maharaj - Freelance Journalist

Consumers must beware of ruthless businesses who inflate the prices of goods that are presently in demand. A Durban shopper was perturbed to discover that a local supermarket chain sold a bottle of hand sanitiser at R10 per bottle in the morning and by the evening had upped the price to R30.

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) safeguards the public against such unscrupulous business practices and consumers must act against shops that are unlawfully inflating prices, said Dr Marlini Moodley, a marketing academic at MANCOSA, who has undertaken research on the CPA for her PhD studies.

In such a case, Moodley said consumers should report the retailer to the Consumer Commission.

“The only way such incidents will stop is if consumers take the business acting unscrupulously to task. The commission can only help if the business is registered. It will be handy to have photographs of the items with the different prices and the customer invoice to prove the cost the consumer had paid for the item,” said Moodley.

Moodley undertook research titled The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and Promotion Strategies of Retail Businesses in Durban while pursuing her PhD in Management Studies at the Durban University of Technology (DUT).

The research findings suggested that retail businesses are generally following CPA rules when it comes to promotion practices and have incurred a cost of between 10% and 20%.

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When retailers market their products prior to a sale or generally, they have to do so in a manner that benefits the customers. For example, labelling on products must be clear and easy to understand and bundled products can only be sold if it means a saving for the consumer.

The research findings also showed that consumer privacy must be maintained in that customers cannot be bombarded by calls from call centres that are promoting products or services.

A concern many consumers have expressed in media reports is about the poor state of the South African economy and many home-owners are worried about how they will meet their monthly bond payments.

“Businesses and banks need to be good to their customers/clients. Don’t be out to make a quick buck at the expense of your customer. Banks should allow home-owners a four-month grace period in which to pay their bonds. This will give the economy life and it will eventually do well.
“Business should view the existing coronavirus as an opportunity to roll out their Corporate Responsibility Initiatives (CRI). Retailers should hand out free sanitisers, masks and gloves to the communities that support them. This will give the business good standing in the eyes of the consumers,” Moodley told reported earlier on Friday that Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has confirmed that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in SA has reached 202.

Speaking during a media briefing in the Free State, Mkhize urged citizens not to panic or fear the virus.

Instead, the minister called upon society to heed the call to practice social distancing and good hygiene habits.

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