Picture: GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP
Picture: GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP

The government has gazetted regulations on the pricing of key goods and services during the coronavirus-induced national state of disaster.

Items covered in the regulations, published by trade & industry minister Ebrahim Patel, include basic goods such as medical and hygiene products, toilet paper, hand sanitisers, facial masks, disinfectants cleaners, surgical gloves, surgical masks, disinfectant wipes, antiseptic liquids, as well as baby formula and disposable nappies.

Also included in the list are rice, sugar, long-life milk, bottled water, cooking oils, wheat flour, and canned and frozen vegetables.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the outbreak of Covid-19 a national disaster and announced sweeping measures to limit its spread, including a ban on a gatherings of more than 100 people and the closure of schools.

On Wednesday, Ramaphosa met political parties leaders in parliament on the outbreak. They told him of their fear that businesspeople selling gloves, sanitisers and masks will try to maximise profit from the crisis.

The regulations published on Thursday state that a supplier “may not offer to supply, or enter into an agreement to supply, any good and service at a price that is unfair, unreasonable or unjust”.

During the national disaster period such price hikes are  “unconscionable, unfair, unreasonable and unjust, and a supplier is  prohibited from effecting such a price increase”.

“A retailer must prominently display a notice in each of its stores that states that it has developed and will implement the measures and that it will [adequately] and diligently carry out these measures.”

Offenders could face a fine of up to R1m, forfeit 10% of company turnover, and imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months.

“Any person may make written representation regarding these regulations and directions. Representations must reach the department not later than 14 days from the date of publication of this notice.”

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za