Tembinkosi Bonakele. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Tembinkosi Bonakele. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The Competition Commission has referred Dis-Chem to the Competition Tribunal for inflating the prices of surgical masks — with profit margins doubling from 20% to 45%.

The commission, which acts as investigator, says that members of the public complained to it about the prices of three different surgical mask packs, after March 28.

It says for the pack of 50 blue surgical masks the average price before VAT went from R43.47 in February 2020 to R156.95 before tax in March.

This was a price increase of 261%.

Companies typically increase prices to counter increased demand. While some prices went up by over 200%, the commission says Dis-Chem increased its profit margin from 20% in February to 45% in March. This suggests some of the price increase was due to increased costs for masks from suppliers.

“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,” said Competition Commission commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele in a statement.

The tribunal says it has been asked to adjudicate on the matter.


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