Retailers take advantage of consumers

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“The nca money desk. Now a pyramid xena is in our newsroom markets were looking looking a little better today spa. Supermarkets. However seem to have landed themselves in hot.

That s right savvy hiking essential goods and it looks like big retailers. Not just spa are still taking advantage of consumers by hiking the prices of essential goods during the lockdown so social media is abuzz this evening with people complaining about the prices of sparse products in particular. The trade and industry department. And the competition commission have condemned this and our city to issue harsh penalties and joining me now is tim benghazi boniello who is the competition commissioner commissioner thank you very much for your time this evening commissioner i think we must start with those investigations that were mentioned just a few weeks ago.

That were going to be initiated against the likes of spa. Who were taking advantage of consumers have those started and how far have those come yes. We have a number of investigations that ongoing with ongoing. We were inundated with complaints more than 650 complaints.

We ve received in the past week..

And we are seeing a trend that there are people increasing prices to exploit the situation. There are also people increasing prices. Because they themselves are facing rising input costs. So people who buy a product to resell and a buying them already at a higher price.

They are also opportunistic traders people whose would not usually same thing so things like masks gloves and so on people are trading. These items. Some of them trading them online and they are putting huge markups on them. And so we are having to fix all of these types of complaints.

So that we can identify those that are most serious for resolution through litigation in other words prosecution. I should mention that a lot of retailers have reversed price increases after we have engaged with them so the major retailers in south africa for example have committed not to increase prices unfairly during this lockdown period. And and the issue you re raising in in particular about spa. The syria issue inspires that you have a lot of franchises that are independent and that are determining their own prices.

And so often we find that the sparc group itself is not aware and as soon as they become aware they clamp down on these franchises for increasing prices and exploiting..

The situation commissioner would you not say then that there s a bit of an issue with our regulatory environment. When these independent owners of the stores are raising prices to the levels that they are and then should they not be better oversight to ensure that they are no instances. Where consumers are paying exorbitant amounts for essential goods particularly in this current environment. Yes right we do not as i said.

We ve kind of contained this when it comes to the large retailers. But independent retailers are all over so it s very difficult to believe that we are grateful that the public has been bringing some of these to our attention and we are following up on them and you will free by the end of the week. We would have announced a few prosecutions that we will be taking to the tribunal right you speak about that there are prosecutions what other penalties are there for retailers. That are seem to be taking advantage of consumers well it depends on how they do that they also charge excessive pricing are facing.

10 of their annual turnover as a fine and those who collude to fix. Prices and may have been allegations of this as well those who knut in addition to the 10 percent turnover penalty. They also face a possible prison imprisonment of up to 10 years. Right commissioner this might be a little bit of a stretch.

But i m really interested to know countries like russia don t hesitate they ve withdrawn a trade licenses to retailers that have taken advantage of consumers as it s a conversation..

You ve had with the department of trade and industry as a possible measure. I ll tell you what is going to happen if we continue to three exploitation. It will be it will signal a failure of the markets and that s going to be quite catastrophic. Because government is going to have to intervene with a heavy hand.

Regulating prices and sometimes even rationing a thing so we will be told how many products you can buy at what price. We don t want to get there because south africa is in a very very fortunate position in that most of the essential items especially food. We produced it ourselves. So if we are messing it up with mess it up ourselves.

So we don t have to do this there is enough supplies in our value chains. We just need to make sure that we behave properly and people are not exploiting. The situation otherwise you re quite right i m not familiar with the russian laws or even the russian constitution. But i can see governments all over the world taking a much tougher stance.

If people don t behave and then a final one from you commissioner you were also monitoring irregular commodity trading..

What have you seen in the trends. There and will it be impacting consumers in any other way yes. We have been looking at a trading of commodities like maize wheat and and and so on we re seeing a little bit of a spike in in in wheat prices. Some of the week is imported.

So that could be a imported inflation. But we also saw a little bit of price increases in white males in the law in the past week so what we re saying to everybody. Including traders at raiford is that we are monitoring this very closely and if there were to be any incidence of traders exploiting the situation again. I think we will have to tighten.

We will have to recommend government tightens regulations and knows we might even have to suspend some of the trading. If it gets out of control. Very harsh actions indeed they but they ” ..


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