COVID over-pricing charges laid in Alberta

Hand sanitizer for $39 a bottle? 3M masks for $120? And $25 for Lysol spray?

Those prices for items in demand during the pandemic are deemed exorbitant by the Alberta government, which has laid charges against a Calgary company that was asking those prices.

The unnamed business was charged with ignoring an order to stop overcharging, after it was told on April 15 to cease asking prices “grossly exceeding” an acceptable rate and did not comply with that order.

The owner is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 19. A fine of up to $300,000 could apply.

The rates noted for hand sanitizer, masks and Lysol were 200, 400 and 250 percent higher, respectively, than the going rate, according to a government news release issued May 8. The business was also charging $30 for a two-pack of vitamin C (100 percent mark-up) and $10 for hand soap (300 percent mark-up.)

“We have been very clear that taking advantage of Albertans is unacceptable and reprehensible, especially during a public health emergency,” said Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish.

“As customers, Albertans should be able to shop with confidence, without needing to worry about businesses engaging in acts of piracy. Unnecessarily hiking prices by 200 and 400 percent is disgusting

behaviour that will be punished 100 percent of the time.”

The news release said the Consumer Investigation Unit of Service Alberta has received 458 complains of price gouging related to COVID-19 and 351 of those warranted further inspection.

The following products have been involved in investigations:

• Hand sanitizer

• Lysol/Clorox Wipes

• toilet paper

• face masks (including some N95s)

• disposable gloves

• soup

• flour

• milk

• baby formula

• shredded cheese

• ground beef

Consumers who suspect gouging can call the Report a Rip-off line at 877-427-4088.

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