Anyone in B.C. who tries to resell medical supplies or engages in price gouging for essential items could now get a $2,000 ticket.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced the new fines on Sunday (April 19). The tickets can be handed out by police, conservation officers and other officers in B.C. starting immediately for as long as the COVID-19 crisis continues. The pandemic has led to 1,647 total test positive cases and 81 deaths in B.C.
“We will not allow these practices to continue, ” Farnworth said.
He said the authorities believe it is largely individuals trying to profit off the COVID-19 pandemic rather than organized crime. Farnworth noted that some fluctuation in price in normal, but gave the example of a mask being sold for $5 one day and $50 the next as price gouging that would not be tolerated. In a statement, the province said tickets were a “timelier alternative” to pursuing legal action through the courts.
Aside from price gouging and reselling medical supplies, ticketable offences include exceeding the quantity limits on the sale of specified items and hotels or lodging operators not providing accommodation for self-isolation facilities or to support essential workers.
Consumer Protection BC will be the primary point of contact for price gouging concerns. In a press release, the agency said its received almost 1,500 price gouging complaints related to COVID-19.
The full range of people authorized to hand out tickets, aside from police, includes: municipal bylaw officers, liquor and cannabis inspectors, gaming inspectors, conservation officers, community safety unit inspectors, park rangers, natural resource officers, commercial vehicle safety officials and sheriffs.
The form for reporting price gouging to Consumer Protection BC is here: https://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/report-price-gouging.
The agency is asking people to provide this information when reporting price gouging:
- Your name and contact information, for possible follow up
- The type of product being sold, the new price, and the previous price if possible
- Any evidence, if possible, such as a picture or receipt
- The name of the business and the address, including the city