Dis-Chem CFO Rui Morais responds to Covid-19 price gouging allegations

Rui says he believes information provided to the Competition Commission was misunderstood.

In a letter released to CFO South Africa, Dis-Chem CFO and 2018 Young CFO of the Year Rui Morais responded to allegations of price gouging during the Covid-19 pandemic. On 22 March, it was announced that the Competition Commission has referred Dis-Chem to the Competition Tribunal. 

Rui’s letter stated: 

“We categorically deny these allegations. Our pricing is set within regulated guidelines and we do not engage in price-gouging or excessive price-fixing. We do not believe that the information and data provided to the Competition Commission during its investigation establishes any contravention of the Competition Act. Unfortunately, that information and data appears to have been misunderstood. Together with our legal team and economic experts, we are examining the specific charges and allegations and will oppose the complaint referral.” 

He went on to say: 

“For 40 years, based on our ethos of pharmacists who care, we have proudly built our business by adding value to our stakeholders – our partners, suppliers, staff, and customers. We have created a household brand underpinned by our passion for customer value and satisfaction and supported by every-day low prices, as our 5,2 million loyalty members will attest. We are gratified that our growth and success over the years has allowed us to build a reputation as a caring South African corporate citizen via the Dis-Chem Foundation that delivers care into the communities that we serve. 

“In this unprecedented time in our collective history we have added our voice to supporting our government and health authorities. Dis-Chem has contributed R2 million to the Solidarity Fund and we are encouraging our Benefit Card members to convert their points to grow the contribution, where we will furthermore match consumer donations rand for rand.”

He further detailed the work that the pharmaceutical retail business has done in the implementation of drive-through testing stations, charging 25 percent lower prices than through other channels, the work that they are currently doing with the Solidarity Fund to provide free testing for state-identified patients, and the fact that they are making every effort to avoid retrenchment and have given every staff member a R1,500 food and healthcare voucher to demonstrate their gratitude to the front-line fight against the virus. 

Rui concluded: 

“We have always prided ourselves on supporting our customers and communities and there is no basis for us to be short-sighted by manipulating prices in this time of crisis in South Africa. We value our long-standing relationship with CFO South Africa and while the case is still to be heard, we are confident that the conclusion will show there has been no intentional wrongdoing on our side.”