Dis-Chem charged for inflating prices during COVID-19 lockdown

The Competition Commission investigated Dis-Chem for excessive pricing on essential hygienic goods.

FILE: The essential items include several types of surgical face masks. Picture: Dischem Facebook Page.

JOHANNESBURG - Dis-Chem Pharmacies Limited has on Thursday been charged for inflating prices during the COVID-19 national lockdown.

The Competition Commission investigated Dis-Chem after allegations of excessive pricing on essential hygienic goods. The commission referred Dis-Chem to the Competition Tribunal, alleging its investigation showed the pharmacy inflated prices to the detriment of customers and consumers in contravention of the Competition Act.

The essential items include several types of surgical face masks.

Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said: “People who sell these essential products ought to appreciate that these are literally life saving 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.”

The Competition Commission said it launched the investigation after it received complaints from the public against several retail stores owned by Dis-Chem for taking part in excessive pricing of face masks, specifically dusk and surgical masks.

"These essential items are surgical face masks blue 50PC, surgical face masks 5PC and surgical face masks folio dress blue. From at least 28 March 2020, 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," the commission said in a statement.

According to the commission, Dis-Chem inflated their surgical face mask blue 50PC, 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%.

The surgical face masks 5PC, the average price increased from R13.27 (excl VAT) per unit (5 masks) in February 2020 to R19.03 (excl VAT) per unit (5 masks) in March 2020, a price increase of 43%.