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Your Questions About Coronavirus and Consumer Issues

Jurisdiction: 
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed: 
May 2020
Time to read: 
3 minutes

“I got a call from the 'Canada Health Authority' telling me I tested positive for COVID-19. They followed up with a text message saying I was eligible for government benefits. They asked for my social insurance number and personal health number, to 'confirm my identity', as well as my credit card, to process my benefit payments. It sounded so official, but it must have been a scam. I've never been tested for COVID-19."

– Jasper, Golden

“I got a call from the 'Canada Health Authority' telling me I tested positive for COVID-19. They followed up with a text message saying I was eligible for government benefits. They asked for my social insurance number and personal health number, to 'confirm my identity', as well as my credit card, to process my benefit payments. It sounded so official, but it must have been a scam. I've never been tested for COVID-19."

– Jasper, Golden

I’ve heard there are scams related to COVID-19. Is this true?

Sadly, yes. Fraudsters seek to profit from consumers' fears and uncertainties, and the spread of misinformation. Be alert. Especially for scams related to the new benefit programs announced by the government: be extra suspicious if a text message asks you for your personal information.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has a list of COVID-19 related scams to watch out for.

I’ve noticed people are selling things like toilet paper and hand sanitizer online at crazy prices. Is this legal?

It’s sad to see that many of these “profiteers” try to re-sell these goods, either in person or online. But government and the business community are taking action. Several prominent retailers are refusing to allow this to happen. Some municipalities have levied fines. And BC authorities can now ticket people and businesses up to $2,000 for reselling essential goods and supplies and price gouging.

If you see it happening, you can complain online to Consumer Protection BC. This office is the main point of contact in the province for complaints about price gouging and reselling of essential goods and supplies.

I was supposed to take a flight this spring/summer, but may have to cancel or postpone. What are my rights?

Both WestJet and Air Canada have introduced flexible cancellation or rebooking policies at this time. They are waiving change fees or providing credit for future travel if you’d like to cancel. Best to try to accomplish as much as you can online — their call centers are likely overwhelmed. Although, if they have pleasant hold music, that can help pass the time in self-isolation.

What’s the situation with travel restrictions?

Canada has an official global travel advisory in effect: Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice. And avoid all travel on cruise ships.

Canadians and permanent residents returning to Canada from abroad must isolate or quarantine for 14 days, depending on if they have symptoms. (The federal government website explains the difference between isolating and quarantine.)

As of March 30, domestic travel is restricted for people with COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone showing signs of the virus can’t travel by air or by rail between provinces and cities anywhere in Canada.

All foreign nationals are prohibited from entering Canada for non-essential travel. As of May 22, the restriction on all non-essential travel at the Canada-US border has been extended until June 21, 2020.

If I can’t sign a contract in person, what are my options?

There are online services available, like DocuSign or HelloSign, that make online signing easy and efficient. It may be best to ask a lawyer or notary public for specific advice here, since some documents have very particular requirements for in-person signatures or witnessing.

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