Watchdog acts on price hikes

The Namibian Competition Commission has warned all retailers against exploiting consumers through artificially inflated prices.

26 March 2020 | Business

The average price of hand sanitiser and masks in Namibia have skyrocketed by up to 275% and 633% respectively since the outbreak of Covid-19 locally.

On average, the public is charged 92% more for immune boosters, the Namibian Competition Commission (NaCC) says.

Following consumer complaints, the NaCC did an analysis on the price of hand sanitisers, masks and immune boosters. The watchdog found “significant price increases” at some local retailers, including distributors, pharmacies and supermarkets.

The corporate communications officer of the NaCC, Dina Gowases, issued a statement prices were “artificially hiked”.

Increases

Price increases range between N$104 to N$200 at various pharmacies for immune boosters.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, 100 ml of hand sanitiser on average cost N$20. The price has since increased to a minimum N$44 at most pharmacies, subject to the brand and demand at a point in time, the NaCC says.

“In some instances, sanitisers of a similar size are retailing for as much as N$75,” according to the watchdog.

Before cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Nambia a 3-ply mask retailed for around N$10, whole N95 masks sold for N$100. “Today, however, retailers are selling the masks at N$75 (3-ply) and N$230 (N95),” the NaCC says.

Illegal

Acts of excessive pricing and collusive behaviour through price-fixing by retailers and suppliers are against the law, the commission warns.

“Penalties for such conduct are severe and may attract a fine of 10% of turnover,” the watchdog says.

The NaCC has urged consumers to, “during this period of national crisis, immediately report to the commission any unusual increase in prices by suppliers and retailers”.

Under its enforcement, exemptions and cartels division, the NaCC has set up a dedicated team to ensure prioritisation of complaints on all essential healthcare and hygiene products.

The NaCC has been in contact with the ministry of industrialisation and trade and will be working with them “closely to provide consumers with the quickest and most effective protection against continued price exploitation”.

“The commission is further in discussion with government to ensure that competition law enforcement does not impede necessary cooperation between businesses to deal with the current crisis and ensure security of supplies of essential products and services to the citizenry,” the NaCC says.

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