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Major retailers named and shamed

by Louise Burgers. Government has taken swift action against retailers accused of hiking prices during the COVID-19 disaster, naming and shaming offenders.

by Louise Burgers. Government has taken swift action against retailers accused of hiking prices during the COVID-19 disaster, naming and shaming offenders on national television and launching investigations – 30 retailers in total are now being investigated over a variety of products where there were significant price increases. Initial complaints centre around high prices for face masks, hand sanitiser and toilet paper.

National Consumer Commission deputy commissioner Thezi Mabuza said Government would continue to take swift action against suppliers and retailers found guilty of raising prices to profiteer. Competition Competition commissioner, Tembinkosi Bonakele, called on retailers to report incidences of price gouging from suppliers, or it would be assumed the retailer was at fault.

These are the retailers named in a national television broadcast last night, March 25, at a media briefing from South African ministers and officials involved in gazetting new regulations to protect supply chains in South Africa during #Lockdown.

Below is the list of stores released late yesterday afternoon which  acknowledged receipt of the NCC certificates issued to date and the products, which consumers reported to the NCC, had suddenly significantly increased in price:

  1. Spar in Silverlakes, Pretoria: Dettol antiseptic.
  2. Spar in Plattekloof, Cape Town: hand sanitiser.
  3. North Safety, Western Cape: face masks
  4. Checkers Hyper, Kempton Park, Gauteng: toilet paper.
  5. National Overalls, Pretoria: face masks.
  6. Makro, Durban: toilet paper.
  7. Bloemfontein Pharmacy, Free State: gloves.
  8. Mopani Pharmacy, Mpumalanga: face masks.
  9. Seaside Pharmacy, Tableview: face masks.
  10. Pick n Pay, Milnerton: hand sanitisers.

Bonakele said the Competition Commission was being flooded with complaints regarding “shocking” price hikes on essential products to combat the spread of infection, mainly regarding protective gear; but that they had also noticed price increases in basic foodstuffs like rice, maizemeal, cooking oil and cereals.

Following the regulations that were published by the Minister of Trade and Industry to strengthen enforcement during this disaster, the NCC and Commission engaged with national retailers and sent a letter requesting them to notify them of abnormal increases; yet “complaints from consumers continue to pile up”.

“If we don’t get notification from retailers as to what is the cause of these price increases, we have to assume it is them exploiting and profiteering from the circumstances,” said Bonakele. The Commission had also been monitoring commodity trading and had noticed a surge in the price of white maize. This was put down to an unusual demand from Zimbabwe and the depreciation of the Rand, and prices had returned to somewhat normal levels by yesterday.

“Ultimately it is our duty as regulators to advise Government when markets don’t work. If there is a complete market failure, this is the reality: Government will have no choice but to impose further restrictions on the market. There is no shortage of essential food products. The issue is that these must move normally through the value chain without abuses.”

He called on the large supermarket chains, the large franchises, including garage forecourt stores,to minimise the huge impact on consumers; particularly as it was large enterprise that would suffer if there was any further Government regulation required. “We call on the CEOs of retail stores and the CEOs of franchise operations to continue working with Government; and we call on consumers to continue to monitor prices,” said Bonakele.

 

Louise Burgers (previously Marsland) is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of RetailingAfrica.com. She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.

 

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