Have you seen evidence of price gouging in BC? We want to hear from you. We’re going to tell you what counts as “price gouging” (and what doesn’t) and what to expect once you submit a complaint.

So many of you have already submitted complaints and we really appreciate your help! This additional information is for those of you who had a follow up question about your complaint or if you want to submit your first complaint.  

A bit of background

In April 2020, the BC Government named us as the first point of contact for complaints about price gouging and reselling of essential goods and supplies.

Price gouging basics

What is price gouging?

Government’s Ministerial Order defines price gouging is “an unconscionable price that grossly exceeds the price at which similar essential goods and supplies are available in similar transactions to similar consumers”. The key here is whether the price is excessive to other prices in the marketplace for similar essential goods or supplies.

What are essential goods and supplies?

The rules about price gouging only apply to essential goods and supplies:

  • food, water and other beverages
  • fuel and gasoline
  • health care goods, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies
  • personal hygiene, sanitation and cleaning goods

How does Consumer Protection BC decide whether a business is price gouging? 

We look at comparable items that are being sold in similar transactions (geographically and from comparable retailers) to help us determine if price gouging has occurred. This helps us determine if the price is excessive in comparison to other prices in the same market.

What’s the difference between “price gouging” and “supply and demand”?

Price gouging and price increases due to supply and demand are different. When you see an overall increase in market prices on certain items, it may be due to supply and demand. What separates price gouging from supply and demand is whether the price is excessive compared to other prices in the marketplace for similar items. Not whether the price has increased since the pandemic began.

For example:

  • Is one store selling hand sanitizer at a way higher price than their competitors down the street? If so, it could be price gouging.
  • Did all the hand sanitizer in your town become more expensive? If so, it could be a case of supply and demand.

We understand it can be frustrating to see certain items increase in cost, but we don’t interfere with supply and demand. What we can do is draw the distinction between supply and demand and price gouging and deal with those who are price gouging accordingly.

The complaint process explained

What information do you need from me?

  • Your name and contact information
  • The type of product being sold, the new price, and the previous price (if possible)
  • Any evidence, if possible (like a picture or receipt)
  • The name of the business and its address, including the city

Will you contact me after I submit my complaint? Can I expect a follow up?

We really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to submit a complaint with us. Please understand that because of the high volume of complaints, we cannot follow up with every person. We are focusing our resources on dealing with the businesses who may be price gouging and we will only contact you if we need more information from you. We hope you understand our approach.

Will my complaint make a difference?

Yes! We would not be able to do this without your help. The collective feedback we’ve gotten helps paint a picture about what’s going on in the marketplace. We’ve been able to identify trends, gather data, and use that information to identify and stop price gouging behaviour. We are truly grateful for your help.

Where do I submit my complaint?

You can submit your complaint directly on our website: submit a complaint about price gouging.

Do you have any questions? Please share them in the comments section below. Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to share evidence of price gouging with us. We appreciate you.}

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Where do we fit in? 

We are a provincial regulator and we are responsible for some very specific transactions in BC. We have recently been appointed by the BC Government as the first point of contact for price gouging complaints for essential goods and supplies. We aren’t experts on COVID-19. We won’t – and shouldn’t – ever give medical or legal advice. We may not have the answers to all consumer questions, but we will do our best to share information from reliable sources, put it in ways that are easy to digest and understand, provide referrals and help you navigate this situation.

About Consumer Protection BC

We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.