The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) says the Covid-19 pandemic, which has increased demand for some products on the local market, has heightened unfair trading-related practices.
CFTC has vowed to take action on the perpetrators to correct the situation.
In a statement signed by CFTC executive director James Kaphale, the commission said during its monitoring and inspections carried out in between January and February this year, it observed that some pharmaceutical firms and traders are taking advantage of the pandemic to exploit consumers.
He said the second wave of the coronavirus has led to violation of competition rules, especially through deceptive conduct and excessive pricing of essential personal protective equipment.
Said Kaphale: “Some traders have been promoting and marketing certain products as cure or treatment for Covid-19. According to international health authorities, there is no clinically tested and approved product which can cure Covid-19.
“Any trader found representing that their product can cure Covid-19 would be violating the Competition and Fair Trading Act and the Consumer Protection Act.”
He said any trader found pricing excessively would be infringing the law, adding that CFTC has instituted formal investigations against five pharmaceutical companies and traders.
“The commission will impose stiff sanctions against any pharmaceutical company or trader found engaging in deceptive practices or any other trade malpractices such as excessive pricing in the supply of supplies used in the management of Covid-19,” Kaphale said.
Commenting on the issue, Consumers Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito agreed that some traders are taking advantage of the importance of some products, which have become more vital to the consumers than before.
He said the market has been hijacked by unscrupulous traders who supply substandard products at unreasonable prices.
Said Kapito: “We would have loved if the government had taken control of the importation and distribution of these Covid-19 materials rather than transferring those huge responsibilities to the private sector who have just turned the development into profit-making than to benefit the consumers.”
A daily Covid-19 update from the Ministry of Health shows that as of Sunday, the country had recorded 12 769 active cases and 1 013 deaths since the first case was registered in April last year.