Competition Commission flooded with complaints on unfair pricing

Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said that they’d received 1,354 notifications about huge mark-ups on basic food items and COVID-19 supplies such as face masks and sanitiser.

Previously imported Covid-19 essentials, now made in South Africa. © maridav/123rf.com

CAPE TOWN - The Competition Commission said that it had been flooded with complaints about huge mark-ups on basic food items and COVID-19 supplies such as face masks and sanitiser.

Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele told a joint virtual meeting of Parliament’s Trade and Industry committees that they’d received 1,354 notifications about unfair pricing so far.

Bonakele said that the Competition Commission had prioritised all cases relating to COVID-19 for expedited investigation and referral to the Competition Tribunal and said that it was operating in collaboration with the National Consumer Commission.

"We’ve received a number of complaints since the declaration of the national disaster. There was a lot of panic buying just a few days before and suppliers increased prices. From then on we’ve seen a flood of complaints. We’re standing at 1,354.

Bonakele said that some of the complaints were just tip-offs or picked up from social media. Most of them came from Gauteng (43%), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (14%) and Limpopo (12%).

"The complaints relate to allegations mainly that a lot of retailers and suppliers are charging excessive prices for goods such as masks, sanitisers and basic food items."

The Competition Commission’s Khanyisa Qobo told the meeting that of the 1,354 complaints received, 697 related to COVID-19 supplies. Of these 301, or 43%, have either been referred to the Competition Tribunal or settlement agreements have been reached.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.