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S. Africa Fines Pharmacy Chain For Jacking Up Mask Prices

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South Africa’s Competition Tribunal has fined Dis-Chem Pharmacies 1.2 million rand (70,300 U.S. dollars) for charging exorbitant prices for surgical masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dis-chem, one of South Africa’s major pharmacy chains, hiked prices by 261 percent on the day when the country reported its first COVID-19 on March 5.

“Dis-Chem’s conduct was not only exploitative to the detriment of consumers but also reprehensible in the context of COVID-19, and requires serious sanction,” the tribunal ruled on Tuesday.

Shortly after the guilty verdict, Dis-Chem released a statement, saying it was unfair and contained errors of fact and law.

The company argued that the case focused on a short time period in March without considering the full context in which its local suppliers had no stock and it had to pay higher prices to import millions of masks.