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Government warns retailers against price gouging

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Ontario is preparing an order to fight what Premier Doug Ford is calling “disgusting” price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic, while the province ramps up its testing capacity to handle the growing number of infections.

Details of the order were not immediately available, but Ford said anyone price gouging after the order goes through will be “done.”

“A message to anyone who price gouges: We’re coming after you,” Ford said Thursday. “We’re coming after you hard. I’m going to protect the people of this province and the price gouging, we’re going to put this order through cabinet and they’re done. They’re going to be gone.”

The vast majority of companies are taking care of employees and customers during this crisis, Ford said, but he is “furious” that there are some bad actors.

“That hits a nerve, when people are being taken advantage of by companies.”

He specifically mentioned Pusateri’s, a specialty foods store, that had been charging $30 for Lysol disinfecting wipes, which have been in short supply in many stores.

“That’s disgusting, absolutely disgusting,” Ford said.

Pusateri’s apologized, saying it was a mistake and that anyone who bought those wipes can get a full refund.

“While no excuse, our stores are facing immense pressure on all levels of operation,” president and CEO Frank Luchetta said in a statement. “As a result of this mounting pressure, critical elements were overlooked including the incorrect pricing of this product.”

The order, already in the works before the Pusateri’s incident, would fall under the province’s Emergency Management Act, said a spokeswoman for the premier.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s alcohol regulator announced Thursday that restaurants and bars can temporarily sell alcohol with food takeout and delivery orders.

Ford said it was something the industry had requested.

“These folks are hurting so badly,” he said. “I think it’s a good idea if people don’t have to leave their homes.”