Dis-Chem in hot water for hiking mask prices from R43 to R156 as Covid-19 surged in March

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Johannesburg – Dis-Chem is the latest company to be hauled before the Competition Commission for prosecution after it has emerged that it allegedly inflated prices during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This comes as the Commission continues to crack down on companies that taking advantage of the current crisis by extensively hiking the prices of essential goods.

Commission spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said Dis-Chem has been charged following an investigation which found the company to have inflated the prices of face masks by more than 250%.

“Subsequently the Commission established that, prior to the declaration of a national state of disaster, Dis-Chem was selling the three types of masks, namely, surgical face masks blue 50PC, surgical face masks 5PC and surgical face masks (foliodress blue) at far lower prices. For surgical face mask blue 50PC, the average price was inflated from R43.47 (excl VAT) per unit (50 masks) in February 2020 to R156.95 (excl VAT) per unit (50 masks) in March 2020, a price increase of 261%,” according to Ngwema.

He revealed that the pharmaceutical retail giant had also increased the average price for surgical face masks 5PC from R13.27 (excluding VAT) per unit (5 masks) in February to R19.03 in March 2020, a price jump of 43%.

Last week, Pretoria-based company Babelegi Workwear Overall Manufacturers and Industrial Supplies was the first to be charged and hauled before the tribunal for prosecution over hiking Covid-19 face masks prices by almost 1000%.

Competition Commission Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said: “People who sell these essential products ought to appreciate that these are literally lifesaving items right now. 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.”

Bonakele had last week warned that the commission had now gone past the stage of moral appeals to transgressing companies and that law would be enforced against them.

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