Healthcare distributors accused of price hikes

Offenders face hefty fines

25 March 2020 | Health

The price of healthcare and hygiene products have been artificially hiked by some retailers in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. This including distributors, pharmacies and supermarkets.
According to the Namibian Competition Commission (NaCC)’s corporate communication officer, Dina Gowases, that in determining the price movements of these products, the commission analysed three essential products, namely immune boosters, hand sanitisers and masks.
“The commission’s analysis reveals that there have been significant price increases on masks, hand sanitisers and immune boosters. Price increases range between N$104 and N$200 at various pharmacies for immune boosters. For hand sanitisers, the analysis established that on average a hand sanitiser of 100ml, before Covid-19, would cost a consumer around N$20. However, that price has since increased to a minimum N$44 at most pharmacies, subject to the brand and demand at a point in time,” Gowases said.
She added that in some instances, sanitisers of a similar size are retailing for as much as N$75, and concerning the masks, the commission discovered that pre the Covid-19 outbreak, masks would retail for around N$10 for a 3-ply mask and N$100 for the N95 masks. Now, retailers are selling the masks at N$75 (3-ply) and N$230 (N95), the commission found.
The Competition Act No. 2 of 2003 prohibits acts of excessive pricing and collusive behaviour through price-fixing by retailers and suppliers.
“Penalties for such conduct are severe and may attract a fine of 10% of turnover. All retailers of these essential products are warned against exploiting consumers through artificially inflated prices. The commission urges consumers to, during this period of national crisis, immediately report to the commission any unusual increase in prices by suppliers and retailers,” Gowases said.
She added that to protect consumers from the continued price exploitation, NaCC under its Enforcement, Exemptions and Cartels Division set up a dedicated team to ensure prioritisation of complaints on all essential healthcare and hygiene products during this critical time.
NaCC is further in discussions with the government to ensure that competition law enforcement does not impede necessary cooperation between businesses to deal with the current crisis, noted Gowases. – Nampa

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