Dis-Chem, one of South Africa’s most popular pharmacy and health stores, has been referred to the Competition Tribunal after many of its customers complained that it has hiked its prices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company was referred to the Competition Tribunal by the Competition Commission.
“From March 28, the Commission received several complaints from the public against several retail stores owned by Dis-Chem for engaging in excessive pricing of face masks, specifically dusk and surgical masks,” it said in a statement released on Thursday, April 23.
Shortly after the COVID-19 was declared a national disaster, National Government published regulations to prevent overly inflated pricing in South Africa.
An investigation by the Commission found that Dis-Chem charged their customers excessive amounts of money for essential hygiene products, and this is in contravention of Section 8 of the Competition Act.
Some of the products with highly inflated prices include:
– For surgical mask ‘5PC’, the average price was inflated from R13.27 (excluding VAT) per unit in February 2020 to R19.03 per unit in March 2020. A price increase of 43%.
– For surgical mask ‘blue 50PC’, the average price was inflated from R43.47 (excluding VAT) per unit in February 2020 to R156.96 per unit in March 2020. A price increase of 261%.
“People who seek these essential products ought to appreciate that these are literally life-saving items right now,” said Commissioner Tebinkosi Bonakele.
“They shouldn’t be exploitative and take advantage of cash-strapped consumers during the worst time in our history. We will spare no effort in protecting the consumer.”