The government has published new regulations which prohibit price gouging on numerous products during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

The “Consumer and Customer Protection and National Disaster Management Regulations and Directions” were published on Thursday.

These regulations aim to protect consumers against unfair and unreasonable commercial practices during the coronavirus outbreak.

Dominant companies are prohibited from charging excessive prices to the detriment of consumers. This includes a material price increase across a specific range of products.

Price increases, should they occur, must be in line with the increase in the cost of providing the product or service.

Retailers may also not increase the net margin or mark-up on the listed products above the average margin of these products in the three-month period before 1 March 2020.

Addressing panic buying

The regulations require suppliers to implement reasonable measures to ensure the equitable distribution of products to consumers and businesses.

Suppliers must also ensure that stock levels of specific products are available to serve consumers and businesses.

Retailers may limit the numbers of products which each consumer can buy to ensure an equitable distribution of these products.

Dominant firms which do not adhere to these regulations face a fine of up to R1 million or 10% of their annual turnover.

There is also the risk of imprisonment for a period of up to 12 months.

Goods on the list

The goods and services to which the regulations apply are:

  1. Toilet Paper
  2. Hand Sanitiser
  3. Facial Masks
  4. Disinfectants and Cleaners
  5. Surgical Gloves
  6. Surgical Masks
  7. Disinfectant Wipes
  8. Antiseptic Liquids
  9. All-Purpose Cleaners
  10. Baby Formula
  11. Disposable Nappies
  12. Bleach
  13. Cooking Oils
  14. Wheat Flour
  15. Rice
  16. Maize Meal
  17. Pasta
  18. Sugar
  19. Long-life Milk
  20. Canned and Frozen Vegetables
  21. Canned, Frozen and Fresh Meat, Chicken or Fish
  22. Bottled Water
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