Sask. government says businesses price gouging during COVID-19 could face fines, jail time
A doctor is also raising concerns over people selling N95 masks when they're needed for healthcare workers
Saskatchewan's provincial consumer affairs authority is warning businesses that price gouging will result in fines or even potentially incarceration.
"Grossly excessive pricing of products or services during a period of crisis that takes advantage of consumers who are unable to protect their own interests due to the impact of the crisis is not permitted," the Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA) said in a statement on Monday.
The FCAA said businesses could face action and prosecution if they are found to have engaged in the unfair business practice.
"During this unprecedented time, it is simply unacceptable to be price gouging," Minister of Justice Don Morgan said in a statement. "Businesses or individuals in Saskatchewan found price gouging will face stiff penalties and possibly jail time."
The FCAA statement said businesses can reasonably raise prices to cover increasing business costs.
If shoppers see price gouging in advertisements or during a shopping trip, they are asked to report it. As well, they're asked to keep all receipts, contracts and ads that prove the practice is happening.
People can report it by:
- Calling FCAA's consumer protection tip line at 1-877-880-5550 to provide information.
- Send an online tip
- File a formal complaint
- Complain to the supplier
- Complain to the Better Business Bureau
Concerns about stores price gouging for N95 masks
A doctor is calling for retailers to cease selling medical grade N95 masks, given the shortage of medical supplies that will help healthcare workers fight COVID-19.
Joseph Blondeau, the provincial lead for clinical microbiology with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said given the fact that the world is in crisis right now dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it's socially irresponsible for people to be price gouging.
"This is just totally unacceptable and we should be doing whatever we can to prevent such measures from occurring," Blondeau said.
He said the global medical supply shortage means they need to be in the hands of frontline healthcare workers, rather than being in the public.
Blondeau said with the federal government stepping in to try and obtain more masks, it's clear to him the masks are not in abundant supply.
"We need to be doing whatever we can to protect the integrity of the N95 mask supply and make sure they're going where they're needed most," he said. "That's in the hands of frontline healthcare workers."
Blondeau encouraged people to donate unused masks in their original sealed containers. He said a phone line has been set up for people to identify themselves and coordinate a donation.