Overview

On March 28, 2020, Ontario announced  an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act against price gouging. The order on price gouging was continued under the Reopening Ontario Act as of July 24, 2020. It prohibits businesses and individuals from charging unconscionable prices for necessary goods during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can report someone for price gouging for:

  • disinfecting agents
  • personal hygiene products
  • masks or gloves
  • certain non-prescription medications
  • testing kits

We will review all complaints received to determine if price gouging has occurred and further action is appropriate. Updates on the status of individual complaints will not be provided.

About price gouging

The emergency order defines price gouging as charging a price “that grossly exceeds the price at which similar goods are available to like consumers.” According to the order, this price is considered “unconscionable.”

Defining price gouging comes down to comparing whether there is a significant and substantial difference in price between retailers for similar goods.

The emergency order does not:

  • set a fair price for necessary goods
  • require every retailer to sell the goods for the same price
  • prevent a business from raising the price for a necessary good

Other factors that can impact cost of goods

Not all price differences between retailers is price gouging.

There may continue to be differences in pricing between:

  • big and small retailers (for example, convenience stores)
  • retailers in large urban centres and those in more remote communities

Businesses also might experience increases in their costs for reasons beyond their control and may need to raise prices to recover costs they incurred.

Factors that could impact costs for retailers and result in increased prices to consumers, but may not be considered price gouging, include:

  • increased costs from manufacturers
  • supply and delivery issues
  • staff shortages in the supply chain
  • occupational health and safety concerns

About necessary goods

For the emergency order issued in response to COVID-19, necessary goods include:

  • masks and gloves used a personal protective equipment in relation to infections
  • non-prescription medications for the treatment of coronavirus symptoms
  • disinfecting agents intended for cleaning and disinfecting objects or people
  • personal hygiene products, including soap and paper products
  • testing kits used for identifying coronavirus in individuals

Necessary goods might vary depending on the nature of the emergency (for example, flood, ice storm, pandemic).

How your complaints are handled

Consumer Protection Ontario is reviewing complaints to determine:

  • if they meet the definition of price gouging
  • what steps should be taken in response (including possible enforcement action)

Updates on the status of individual complaints will not be provided.

If we determine a business is price gouging, we may issue them a notice of complaints against them. The notice will remind them of their obligation to comply with the law and provide fair pricing.

More serious cases of price gouging will be referred to Provincial Offences Officers, including the police.

Fines and penalties

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, anyone who has contravened the order may be subject to a fine of $750.

In more serious cases, retailers or individuals may be charged with an offence and, if convicted, could be fined up to $100,000 and imprisoned for up to one year.

Officers or directors of corporations who are charged and convicted may be fined up to $500,000 and imprisoned for up to one year.

Corporations charged and convicted could be fined up to $10 million.

Other actions, including cautionary notices to businesses, may also be used as a form of enforcement.

Report price gouging

Please take a moment to tell us if you think you have witnessed someone selling necessary goods that people need during this time at an unreasonable price, especially:

  • disinfecting agents
  • personal hygiene products
  • masks or gloves
  • certain non-prescription medications
  • testing kits

The information you provide can help us understand how widespread price gouging is across Ontario.

Your feedback is also a valuable starting point to help us take the necessary steps to stop people and businesses from price gouging.

Report online

Report price gouging related to COVID-19

Report by phone

You can report an individual who is price gouging by filing a complaint at 1-800-889-9768 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.