- The National Consumer Commission has signalled its dismay at businesses taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic
- After receiving numerous complaints, the NCC has filed a matter against an unnamed supplier with the National Consumer Tribunal
- This comes after the supplier inflated the price of hand sanitiser in a bid to profit from the crisis
The National Consumer Commission has taken action after complaints of alleged unfair, unreasonable and unjust prices streamed in amid the Covid-19 crisis.
The Commission says it has been overwhelmed with complaints against numerous suppliers across South Africa.
Acting Commissioner Thezi Mabuza says that the announcement of a national lockdown prompted dodgy businesses to inflate prices.
One supplier, in particular, has now found itself the centre of a case at the National Consumer Tribunal:
“The supplier in question increased the price of a 25 L hand sanitiser from R990 (a price they charged in December 2019) to R2 745.00 (on March 24). This means the supplier has pocketed a profit of more than 114%. The Commission has reasonable suspicion that the supplier has engaged in unfair, unconscionable, unreasonable, unjust or improper conduct by sharply increasing their prices and this is in contravention of the provisions of Regulations 350 as gazetted by Minister Patel on 19 March 2020."
In the application, the Commission seeks that the supplier's conduct is declared prohibited, the supplier is interdicted against engaging in similar conduct, the affected consumers receive a full refund and an administrative fine of R1 million be imposed.
Mabuza confirmed that the commission would be filing more cases in the next week
“Our investigation against a pharmacy revealed that the supplier was selling facial masks and made a profit margin of between 200% to 500%. Another supplier, increased the price of FFP1 masks by 667.72% even before sourcing at increased prices. The supplier last sourced the masks in January but increased their prices following a demand. We have also investigated and finalised an investigation against a pharmacy that has made a profit of between 200% to 400% on different goods like hand sanitizers, antiseptic liquid and face masks."
Briefly.co.za gathered that the most complaints received at the start of the lockdown centred around hand sanitisers, face masks, hand gloves and in some cases flour.
The commission says that in the past two weeks consumers have shifter to reported inflated food prices.
Mabuza concluded that those who take advantage during this time would be taken on in a bid to protect consumers
“We will take stern actions against suppliers who infringe Regulation 350. Our mandate is to protect consumers and customers from unconscionable, unfair, unreasonable, unjust or improper commercial practice during the national disaster. We believe that vulnerable consumers are hit hard as the cost of their food basket increases."
Have you experienced similar instances of inflated prices? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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