The province is enabling police and other enforcement officers to issue $2,000 fines to people engaged in price gouging, and the reselling of medical supplies.
B.C.’s minister of public safety Mike Farnworth made the announcement on Sunday morning, saying enforcement will come from bylaw officers, liquor and cannabis inspectors, park rangers, conservation officers, and others.
He said his office has received reports made to Consumer Protection B.C of the reselling of essential medical supplies — including personal protective equipment.
Farnworth called the actions by some “shameful,” citing the story of an elderly, immuno-compromised woman who paid ten times what she normally would for an N95 mask.
“There will be those who want to prey on peoples’ fears and the most vulnerable in our society,” he said, adding the majority of people reselling supplies are individuals, not connected to organized crime.
“We will not allow these practices to continue. We need to work together to keep society running.”
People who fail to self-quarantine after returning from travel can also face fines.
800 reports of gouging
Farnworth said the province recognizes that as demand for supplies increases, the price does increase. But he said the standard to recognize price gouging will come down to common sense, and that some prices posted online have been “exorbitant.”
“You know it when you see it,” he said.
“It’s not a question that there’s a critical shortage and a price is rising in every jurisdiction.”
Farnworth said that people who want to report examples of these practices can call local police, 3-1-1, or Consumer Protection B.C., which has already received 800 reports.
Farnworth said that most people are complying with physical distancing advice and there is no plan to close down public spaces at beaches and in parks.
He also said there are currently no concerns around maintaining supply chains, but that the province is planning in case the situation changes.
On April 15 B.C. Premier John Horgan extended the provincial state of emergency by two weeks.
States of emergency can only be issued for two weeks at a time in B.C.
The declaration gives the province extraordinary powers during a crisis, including the ability to restrict travel and set prices for essential goods like medical supplies and food.
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