British Columbia has authorized the provincial police and other law enforcement officers to issue $2,000 fines to those engaged in price gouging and the reselling of essential medical supplies and personal protection equipment.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced the measure on April 19 in response to the growing number of public complaints made to Consumer Protection B.C. amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Enforcement staff across the province, such as municipal bylaw officers, liquor and cannabis inspectors, gaming inspectors, and park rangers will also be granted power to issue tickets.
“[T]here are always those who seek to take advantage of people’s fears, and those who prey on the collective anxieties of our communities,” Farnworth said.
He condemned such actions, citing the story of an immunocompromised civilian who paid 10 times the regular price for an N95 mask, and business owners seeking personal protection equipment for their workforces having to pay “grossly inflated prices.”
“In the past month, many of us have heard cases of price gouging or someone selling essential supplies illegally,” he said. “I can assure you we will not allow these practices to continue.”
The new measures are also applicable to returning travellers who refuse to comply with the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days under the Federal Quarantine Act.
The B.C. government has partnered with Consumer Protection B.C., which is now the first and primary point of contact for all cases of price gouging and reselling of essential medical goods and supplies.
“This is a difficult time for consumers and businesses alike and we’ve been working to help people navigate this confusing new landscape,” Rob Gialloreto, the president and CEO of Consumer Protection B.C., said in a press release.
“We encourage compassion and understanding for each other—and there’s no place for people to take advantage of each other and that includes price gouging.”
According to Gialloreto, the organization has received nearly 1,500 reports of price gouging since it began accepting complaints from the public in early March.
Over the past month, new regulations to counter price gouging and other related misconduct have been announced in provinces across the country. In most provinces, individuals and business owners who raised prices significantly on medical supplies needed during the pandemic may face fines and jail time.