Dis-Chem withdraws appeal against finding on excessive face mask prices

The Competition Commission on Friday welcomed the withdrawal of an appeal lodged by Dis-Chem pharmacies after the company was earlier found to have charged excessive prices for surgical face masks during the state of national disaster.

Dis-Chem filed a notice of withdrawal to appeal at the Competition Appeal Court on Thursday.

Competition Commission commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said in a statement he was pleased with the decision.

“The price increases that occurred during the state of national disaster were regrettable. We believe that the Tribunal made a right call by condemning the conduct. We have been consistent in arguing that price gouging in a pandemic deprives consumers‚ particularly poor consumers‚ of access to essentials goods that are necessary to prevent a further escalation of the pandemic‚” said Bonakele.

The commission found during an investigation that Dis-Chem had hiked prices for blue surgical face masks (50 pack)‚ surgical face masks (five pack) and surgical face masks folio dress blue.

From late in March 2020 the commission received complaints from the public about the prices of face masks‚ the commission said.

Its investigation established that before the declaration of a national state of disaster‚ Dis-Chem was selling the three types of masks at far lower prices.

For a 50 pack of masks the average price was inflated from R43.47 (excl VAT) in February 2020 to R156.95 (excl VAT) in March 2020‚ a price increase of 261%.

Five-piece pack prices increased from R13.27 (excl VAT) during the same period to R19.03 (excl VAT).


Source: ARENA Holdings.