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Minister Mike Farnsworth provides an update about government measures in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic in the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on March 26, 2020.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

B.C. police and enforcement officers will start issuing $2,000 tickets for price gouging and reselling essential supplies during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

“In the past month, many of us have heard cases of price gouging or someone selling essential supplies illegally. I can assure you we will not allow these practices (to) continue,” said Mike Farnworth, the province’s minister of public safety and solicitor general, during a Sunday press conference.

The province has heard from, for example, an elderly, immunocompromised consumer who paid 10 times what Farnworth called “the right price” for N95 masks, as well as business owners who have had to pay “grossly inflated prices” for personal protective equipment for their work force.

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Consumer Protection BC has already received more than 800 complaints about these types of practices, he said, and all of them will be investigated.

“That’s why, effective immediately, the province is enabling police to issue $2,000 violation tickets for these shameful practices.”

The measures are enacted under the provincial state of emergency, which was announced in mid-March, through powers under the Emergency Program Act.

Anyone who witnesses such activity should contact their local bylaw enforcement officer, the non-emergency line of their local police force or Consumer Protection BC, he said.

“Any one of those bodies then have the ability to go out to look and to see what’s taking place,” he said, and issue a fine.

In terms of price gouging, officers will determine how the cost compares to “the prices of goods in a community or province that regular people would expect to pay in comparison to other people.”

B.C. recognizes that prices can increase, he said, and that’s not what this is about.

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“It’s one of those things: you know it when you see it.”

Compliance staff from provincial ministries and local governments will be able to enforce the new measures, including municipal bylaw officers, liquor and cannabis inspectors, conservation officers, park rangers and others.

Tickets will also be issued as required to anyone who exceeds the quantity limits on the sale of specified items, Farnworth said.

Additionally, anyone who does not comply with requirements for lodging operators to provide accommodation as requested by the province to serve as self-isolation facilities or support essential workers may be ticketed.

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