Companies who hiked prices during Covid-19 pandemic to face music, says Ebrahim Patel

The economic development minister says competition commission has received hundred of complaints from consumers

02 April 2020 - 20:17
By Sthembile Cele
Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel. Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
Image: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel. Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

The government says action will soon be taken against companies who have hiked their prices in a bid to profit from the Covid-19 crisis.

Minister of trade and industry Ebrahim Patel on Thursday revealed that the competition commission has been inundated with hundreds of complaints from consumers who have experienced the price increases and is now ready to take the culprits to task.

“We have received hundreds of complaints which have been lodged with the competition commission. The first few cases will be coming up at the tribunals where they will be laying out the complaints they have received and we anticipate decisions will be made quickly against companies, firms and individuals who have been profiteering in this period,” Patel said.

The newly amended regulations — on day seven of the nationwide lockdown — as of this afternoon also now make provision for the operation of international call centres for the duration of the lockdown which has been set down for 21 days.

“On call centres that provide services for international clients, the regulations clarify that they may provide essential services in respect of health care, social services, government services and financial services, but subject to social distancing rules as directed by the ministers of health and trade and industry,” Patel said.

He added that the operating times of supermarkets have also had to be reviewed to align with the review of regulations regarding public transport. Particularly in light of the payment of social grants this week, Patel said that some supermarkets have been open since 7am.

The amended regulations also allow for informal traders and spaza shops to operate for the duration of the lockdown.

Government is hoping that the use of these two avenues for essential goods will alleviate some of the pressure on major retailers and public transport which must be used to access major stores.