Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel says the National Consumer Commission (NCC) and Competition Commission were investigating eleven companies for increasing their prices during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
With people seen panic buying at stores across the country, Patel said people had filed complaints.
“We have received a number of complaints about companies charging exorbitant prices. The NCC and competition commission are currently investigating eleven companies that are taking advantage of the pandemic,” he said.
Patel said if found guilty, the companies would face the consequences.
This comes after government announced last week that companies will face a fine of R1 million, or 10% of their annual turnover, or 12 month imprisonment if they charge unreasonably high prices for basic products like food and medical supplies.
Patel said customers should call the NCC and Competition Commission if they suspect price increases by companies.
He said South African-owned businesses were allocated R3 billion industrial funding from Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) as assistance during the lockdown.
“The IDC has allocated R500 million for trade finance to import medical products and R700 million for working capital, equipment and machinery.
“The funding allows food security to be prioritised and support for supply chains that are disrupted by companies that are closing down,” Patel said during a media briefing on Tuesday.
Patel added that the funding would also provide working capital to ensure energy security and working capital for manufacturers and said that services that weren’t part of the IDC sectors will be considered for funding.
The minister said an exemption to banks under the Competition Act to coordinate on measures was issued which could be used to support “ordinary citizens” and businesses during this period.
He said the exemptions would allow banks to work together to devise programmes and relief measures to help small businesses, consumers and companies in distress through the financial and economic challenges.
“The exemptions will allow banks to work together to ensure the continuing functioning of the payment system as well as sharing information and resources to ensure continued availability of banknotes at ATMs, branches and businesses for the next three weeks,” he said.
Patel said the government would publish a special government gazette on Tuesday to enable shopping mall owners and tenants to consider “coordinating their actions” and reach agreements to address matters such as payment holidays or rental discounts to tenants.
He said the regulations would place limitations on evictions to ensure shops and others whose income would be falling sharply during the lockdown had the necessary space to survive with as few adjustments as possible.
“The regulations would initially cover three areas including personal care functions, restaurants and shops selling clothing, footwear and homeware,” he said.
The minister said controls on movement of trading people will not affect the movement of goods across borders with neighbouring countries.