The government has published regulations imposing controls on the prices of certain products in a bid to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel announced the price controls at a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday.
He said, “Price rises may not exceed the increase in the costs of raw materials or inputs and profit levels should not be hiked higher than the period prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.”
Patel added that the regulations cover the full supply chain and will similarly limit price increases of suppliers.
The following products are affected: toilet paper; hand sanitiser; facial masks; disinfectants and cleaners; surgical gloves; surgical masks; disinfectant wipes; antiseptic liquids; all-purpose cleaners; and baby formula.
Others include: disposable nappies; bleach; cooking oils; wheat flour; rice; maize meal; pasta; sugar; long-life milk; canned and frozen vegetables; canned, froze and fresh meat, chicken or fish; and bottled water.
The regulations also affect prices of private medical services relating to the testing, prevention and treatment of coronavirus.
To address recent cases of hoarding and panic buying, the regulations further compel retailers to limit the number of products sold to any individual customer. Retailers also have to maintain adequate stock supplies.
Patel said the regulations were imposed under the Disaster Management Act, the Competition Act and the Consumer Protection Act.
He said the government has also published a Regulation that allows private healthcare providers to cooperate with the national Department of Health.
This means private healthcare providers will now share “facilities and beds, medical supplies, nurses and doctors between different companies and with the government.”
Patel said, “This will cover hospitals and healthcare facilities; medical suppliers; medical specialists and radiologists; pathologists and laboratories; pharmacies; and healthcare funders.”
Breaches of these regulations could attract penalties of up to R1 million or 10% of a company’s turnover, or jail sentences of up to one year, the Minister added.