Are Ontario Price Gougers Getting the Full Measure of the Law?

CANADIAN MONEY

TORONTO – The Ontario NDP critic for Consumer Protection Tom Rakocevic has made a statement in response to a CBC Marketplace report that not a single charge has been laid in Ontario to crack down on the roughly 30,000 price-gouging complaints:

“Ontarians are being taken advantage of by ruthless price gouging during the pandemic, yet Doug Ford’s tough guy act on price gougers was clearly all for show. In fact, since promising to crack down on gougers, all Ford has done is protect insurance companies taking advantage of people mid-pandemic.

“This is one more example of the Ford government hanging regular Ontarians out to dry, while doing favours for corporations instead.”

Minister of Government and Consumer Services Lisa Thompson says, “Our government has been clear – price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic is unacceptable and unCanadian.

“We will not tolerate those taking advantage of these difficult times to charge unfair and unreasonable prices. It is not right.

However, as of November 16, 2020, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Affairs has recieved approximately 29,500 complaints and inquiries alleging price gouging related to COVID-19.

In cases where the alleged prices appeared to be higher but not as egregious as those referred to police, ministry investigators have reached out to the businesses and, where warranted, issued verbal or written warnings to those businesses to take appropriate action to come into compliance.

In addition, more than 1,650 notification letters have been sent to businesses across the province, advising them that they have been reported as allegedly selling necessary goods for prices that grossly exceed the price for similar goods available to like consumers contrary to the emergency order.

These businesses represent over 3,000 individual complaints received by the ministry. The businesses were advised of the requirements under the Order and directed to review their pricing policies to ensure that they are in compliance.

Minister Thompson adds, “That is why the government issued an emergency order back in March to combat price gouging, and it is now clear that this order is working given that the number of complaints received by CPO has decreased significantly. For example, the ministry received over 13,221 complaints online and through the call centre in April, compared to 502 complaints in October through the same channels. This is an over 95% reduction in complaints, which is a clear indication that businesses now understand the message about unacceptable practices during COVID-19.

“We will continue to refer egregious cases – over 900 to date – to police to take decisive action. While MGCS does not direct law enforcement, they are our partner in protecting Ontarians.

“In addition, we will continue to monitor reports of price gouging and call on all Ontarians to work together during this challenging time and refrain from hoarding and selling consumer goods at inflated prices.”