Will the greedy ever learn?

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Opportunistic companies strike again amid massive food shortages in KwaZulu Natal and Johannesburg due to recent riots and looting.

In June 2020, months into the COVID -19 crisis we witnessed the well-known franchise chain Dischem act with retail malice taking advantage of South African citizens. During a time of fear and desperation they deliberately over-charged for surgical masks which have become not only a necessity, but the wearing of, is legally mandatory to protect against the spread of infection.

The pharmaceutical giant was issued a hefty R1.2 million fine by the Competition Tribunal.

The South African people now face another devastating crisis in KwaZulu Natal and Johannesburg after residents took to the streets enacting riots and looting multiple stores and institutions. These actions have resulted in mass food shortages in both provinces. The sinister reaction to this crisis has, once again, been to take advantage of those who are desperate and in great need.

The National Consumer Commission’s acting commissioner, Thezi Mabuza, has warned businesses recovering from the unrest that section 40 and 48 of the Consumer Protection Act prohibits unreasonable price increases. Mabuza stated that contravention of the regulations will result in either a R1 000 000 fine (or 10% of the company’s annual turnover,) or imprisonment for up to a year.

The situation now

It would appear that local businesses are not taking these threats seriously as a loaf of white bread which ordinarily retails for R15 is now retailing for an average of R55, 2 liter of milk now costs R75 rather than R27 and 1kg of white sugar has gone from R22 to R150. Extortionate prices for an already financially stretched community.

One can only hope that the National Consumer Commission will follow the wake of the Competition Tribunal and adequately punish those who put their own greed above South African’s basic needs.

South African competition policy on excessive pricing and its relation to price gouging during the COVID-19 disaster

What South Africa needs now is unity and ethics to supersede the immense greed.

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