The National Consumer Commission (NCC) is investigating seven leading retail stores in the country after reports they have hiked the price of ginger and garlic. If found guilty, they could face fines of up to R1-million or even imprisonment.

Ginger and garlic have become hot commodities amid the pandemic as a way to boost immune systems.

In a statement on Tuesday [February 2], the NCC explains their investigation follows an outcry by consumers carried in the media including social media platforms regarding alleged excessive prices of both products by various suppliers.

The law defines price gouging as an unfair or unreasonable price increase that does not correspond to or is not equivalent to the increase in the cost of providing that good or service.

Ginger and garlic both fall under the Consumer and Customer Protection and National Disaster Management Regulations and Directions, issued in terms of Regulation 350 of Government Notice 43116 which contains a list of 22 essential products which a supplier must not charge an unfair or unreasonable price in order to protect consumers against unconscionable, unfair, unreasonable, unjust or improper commercial practises during the national disaster.

Investigations into the following companies have commenced:

– Food Lovers Market;

– Spar Group;

– Pick n Pay;

– Shoprite Group;

– Boxer Superstores;

– Cambridge Foods;

– Woolworths

“Our investigation is not limited to these suppliers. We urge consumers throughout the country to monitor the market and where they suspect excessive price increase, they must file complaints with the Commission,” said acting Consumer Commissioner Ms Thezi Mabuza.

“These allegations, if proven true, would constitute a violation of Regulation 350 and an imposition fine of up to R1 000 000 or up to 10% of a supplier’s annual turnover or even imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months will be.”

Consumers are urged to lodge complaints by contacting the NCC at 0800 014 880 or 012 428 7000 during office hours.

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