When what usually gets classed as a basic necessity becomes a hot commodity, as has happened in recent weeks in Ontario, it can cause chaos. The provincial government has opened a forum for people to complain about Ontario price-gouging amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And, in just a few short days since the scheme started, the province has already received about 8,400 complaints as of late on April 1.
A spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of Government and Consumer Services offered some details to Narcity in an email on Thursday afternoon.
According to an email sent to Narcity at 4:40 p.m. on Thursday, April 2, the ministry has received around 8,400 complaints about the price gouging of basic products in the province.*
The reports are currently being reviewed by the ministry.
That would seem a pretty high number considering the dedicated site didn't even launch until Saturday, March 28.
According to 680 News, those complaints include raising the price for simple cleaning products, hand sanitizer, hygienic products, and more.
"Consumer Protection Ontario is reviewing these responses and is authorized to action complaints to local law enforcement, where appropriate," the ministry spokesperson told Narcity.
The government of Ontario issued a statement on March 28 stressing there would be new efforts to strike down hard on price gougers.
We’re coming down hard on price gougers. If you see anyone taking advantage by jacking up prices on essential items… https://t.co/jFwdqssmg9— Doug Ford (@Doug Ford) 1585415351.0
Those can be either retail businesses or individuals who are charging way more than they should, in order to make a profit.
If they fail to comply, they could be slapped with a $750 ticket. If individuals are hit with a court date and conviction, they could even face a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in jail.
For companies, the penalties are unsurprisingly far higher. The business's director or executive officer could get a fine up to $500,000 and a year in jail, and corporations face a fine of up to $10,000,000.
"We are putting an end to those trying to profit off of one of the darkest periods in our province's history. If you're engaging in price gouging on necessary goods, we are going to slap you with a ticket or you could face fines or jail time," said Premier Doug Ford in the release announcing the site last weekend.
The province has already issued emergency orders and given power to law officials to crack down on individuals. Groups who aren't practicing proper social distancing and non-essential businesses that haven't shut down as ordered are starting to get ticketed.
If you'd like to file a complaint about unreasonable pricing on household goods, you can call 1-800-889-9768 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, or by just filling out a report online.
In times of crisis like these, there's no room for businesses exploiting their fellow Ontarians.
*This article has been updated.