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Corona: Watchdog on the trail of firms exploiting shoppers

A matatu conductor dispenses a sanitiser
A matatu conductor dispenses a sanitiser as people board in Nairobi last week. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG 

The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) is investigating manufacturers and retailers of home-care products, including sanitisers and toiletries amid suspicion of hoarding and price inflation.

Demand for the goods has risen sharply in recent days as consumers rush to stock up on essentials amid the spread of the coronavirus.

The CAK has written to more than 100 producers and retailers of the products to disclose their historical production capacity, ex-factory prices and quantities sold.

The information, including comparisons of current prices and those prevailing before the announcement of Kenya’s first coronavirus case, is expected to provide information on abnormal rise in prices.

This will signal potential market abuse, which is punishable by a five-year jail term, a fine not exceeding Sh10 million or both.

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The move comes after the regulator recently ordered Cleanshelf Supermarkets to refund customers who had bought TropiKal brand of hand sanitisers at inflated rates.

“The Authority has commenced investigations into alleged contraventions of the Act by manufacturers and retailers following the pronouncement by the Government of confirmed cases of Covid-19,” the CAK said in the letter to the companies.

“In view of the above, and pursuant to Section 31(4)(a) of the Act, you are required to submit the information indicated in the attached schedule for the following products manufactured by yourselves.”

The regulator added that it is seeking information relating to hand sanitisers, toiletries, disinfectants, soaps, detergents and water purifiers.

The information is to be submitted every three days until April 15 or when otherwise advised, marking an unprecedented regulation of manufacturers and retailers.

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