Calgary business charged with price gouging

The government has charged a Calgary-based business with ignoring an order to stop charging exorbitant prices for several consumer products.

Service Alberta’s Consumer Investigations Unit (CIU) first learned of the business by an anonymous tip received through its Report a Rip-Off line. CCA Logistics Ltd was over charing for masks, hand sanitizer, Vitamin C, hand soap, and Lysol spray.

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

“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 per cent is disgusting behaviour that will be punished 100 per cent of the time. Our Consumer Investigation Unit does excellent work and will continue to investigate complaints, file charges and prosecute where necessary, with our government’s full support.”

A CIU investigator went to CCA Logistics Ltd (Newsway) on April 1 and found several pieces of personal protection equipment (PPE) items, as well as other items, being sold at prices that grossly exceeded their normal selling price. Examples included:

  • 3M masks – $120 (400 per cent markup)
  • Hand sanitizer – $39 (200 per cent markup)
  • Vitamin C (two-pack) – $30 (100 per cent markup)
  • Hand soap – $10 (300 per cent markup)
  • Lysol spray – $25 (250 per cent markup)

An interim director’s order was issued to the business owner on April 15, ordering the business to stop charging a price for goods that grossly exceeded a price for which similar goods were available. The business did not comply.

The business owner is scheduled to appear in provincial court in Calgary on Aug. 19.

As of May 8, CIU has received 458 complaints about price gouging related to COVID-19 at businesses across Alberta and 351 have been forwarded for further inspection or investigation.

  • Price gouging has been alleged across the province on the following consumer products:
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Lysol/Clorox Wipes
    • Toilet paper
    • Face masks (including some N95s)
    • Disposable gloves
    • Soup
    • Flour
    • Milk
    • Baby formula
    • Shredded cheese
    • Ground beef

The CIU reviews each complaint and will initiate an investigation if there is clear evidence of price gouging. If found guilty, a company could face fines up to $300,000.

If consumers encounter a price that seems unreasonable, they can contact the Report a Rip-Off line at 1-877-427-4088, or file a consumer complaint online at alberta.ca/file-consumer-complaint.aspx.

Klaus Hausmann photo

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