Small guys cry 'bully' at Clicks
Clicks is being accused of using bullying tactics to squeeze smaller mom and pop pharmacies out of existence.
The Independent Community Pharmacy Association of SA, which represents about 1100 smaller pharmacies, claims Clicks is engaging in "anti-competitive behaviour" and has complained to the Competition Commission.
The association's CEO, Mark Payne, says if smaller pharmacies get pushed out of the market, consumers will have less choice and monopolies could develop.
The association's complaints to the commission include:
- Clicks is given preferential leases at large shopping malls.
The association is in possession of a contract in which a private pharmacy is told it will get 60 days notice of eviction if a Clicks store in the same mall opens a pharmacy;
- Clicks makes money on the manufacture and sale of medicines so it can lower dispensing fees which, the association says, is illegal and unfair to smaller pharmacies; and
- Clicks pushes its own brand of medication, thereby not allowing consumers a choice.
The association has handed documents to the Competition Commission to support its claims.
Among the documents is a training sheet used by Clicks that shows common brands of over-the-counter medicines, and Clicks substitutes, so pharmacists can offer a Clicks product when a customer asks for the name brand.
Payne says this shows Clicks is punting its own brand.
But when The Times visited various Clicks branches, all pharmacists offered a choice between Clicks's brand and other branded products.
The association also gave the commission a Unicorn Pharmaceuticals manufacturing licence.
"It is unlawful for community pharmacies to have a direct or indirect beneficial interest in a manufacturing pharmacy in terms of the Pharmacy Act," said Payne.
He said that Clicks had been breaking the law to make more money.
Medicine manufacturer Unicorn Pharmaceuticals is owned by Clicks and has the same board of directors.
In its reply, Clicks contends that it does not manufacture its own medicines.
It contracts companies to make pills or drugs but brands the products with the Clicks name.
Clicks said that by selling its own brand of medicines it was offering consumers the alternative of cheaper products.