Blais and Coteau Call for Swift Action to Address Alleged Price Gouging by Funeral-Service Providers

  • Provincial News

Liberal MPPs “alarmed” by Bereavement Authority’s admission of price gouging, poor labour standards

Queen’s Park — Liberal MPPs Stephen Blais (Orléans) and Michael Coteau (Don Valley East) today called for swift action to address alleged price gouging by funeral-service providers.

The MPPs’ open letter came following a startling admission that “Some firms are improperly assessing a COVID-19 fee when their costs are less” from the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO).

“This is an alarming admission from the head of a Delegated Administrative Authority of the Province of Ontario,” said Blais. “Worse still, the CEO of the BAO, Carey Smith, appeared to justify passing the costs of basic protective equipment onto bereaved families in an official April 30th Notice to the Profession. This laissez-faire approach to consumer protection is shocking, especially when the Premier has been so clear that price gouging is intolerable.”

“It should go without saying that the costs of protecting workers who deal with the deceased should not be passed on to grieving families. Moreover, it is alarming to learn that ‘routine’ protection measures for workers dealing with the deceased are insufficient to protect against communicable diseases,” said Coteau. 

The two MPPs called on the Minister of Consumer Services, Lisa Thompson, and the Minister of Labour, Monte McNaughton, to immediately:

  1. Clarify in the strongest possible terms that costs for Personal Protective Equipment should never be passed on to grieving families; 
  2. Ensure all funeral-service firms provide their workers with sufficient Personal Protective Equipment whether or not there is a pandemic;
  3. Order an investigation into any and all firms who have engaged in price gouging; and 
  4. Take immediate action to ensure the Bereavement Authority of Ontario is fulfilling its duty to protect consumers.

“This is a troubling issue we hope the Ministers will address swiftly; this is not about politics, but rather ensuring fairness and safety for grieving families, workers and indeed for all Ontarians during these difficult days,” Coteau concluded. 

For more information:
Andrew Green
Executive Assistant to Michael Coteau MPP
askgreen@liberal.ola.org

-30-

May 5, 2020 

Hon. Lisa Thompson
Minister of Government and Consumer Services
College Park, 5th Flr, 777 Bay St
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Hon. Monte McNaughton
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development
14th Flr, 400 University Ave
Toronto, ON M7A 1T7

Dear Ministers:

We are writing to request that you intervene to prohibit price gouging by funeral-service providers who it appears are artificially increasing prices during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On April 30, 2020, Carey Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of the Bereavement Authority of Ontario, wrote in an official “Notice to the Profession” that: 

“Some firms are improperly assessing a COVID-19 fee when their costs are less.”

This is an alarming admission from the head of a Delegated Administrative Authority of the Province of Ontario. 

Worse still, Mr Smith appeared to justify passing the costs of basic protective equipment onto bereaved families, writing: 

“We recognize that in extraordinary times you may have to do extraordinary things and take extraordinary precautions to protect your staff, the families they serve, and indeed the public. We recognize that although you always take routine precautions when preparing body [sic], there are times when the protective measures required for the remainder of your operations are anything but routine. If costs associated with those measures are above and beyond your normal practice, you are entitled to recover these costs. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

This laissez-faire approach to consumer protection and labour standards is shocking. 

Ministers, it should go without saying that the costs of protecting workers who deal with the deceased should not be passed on to grieving families. Moreover, it is alarming to learn that “routine” protection measures for workers are insufficient to protect against communicable diseases. 

The Premier has rightly condemned price gouging and insisted on fairness for consumers during this pandemic. This is reflected in Mr Smith’s Notice when he writes, “There is anti-price gouging legislation in place that carries severe penalties for non-compliance.” 

However, we are deeply concerned that the Notice is not nearly as forceful as it ought to be in ensuring compliance by funeral-service providers. 

Accordingly, we ask that you immediately:

  1. Clarify in the strongest possible terms that costs for Personal Protective Equipment should never be passed on to grieving families; 
  2. Ensure all funeral-service firms provide their workers with sufficient Personal Protective Equipment whether or not there is a pandemic;
  3. Order an investigation into any and all firms who have engaged in price gouging, as per Mr Smith’s admission in the Notice; and 
  4. Take immediate action to ensure the Bereavement Authority of Ontario is fulfilling its duty to protect consumers.

Ministers, this is a troubling issue we hope you will address swiftly; this is not about politics, but rather ensuring fairness and safety for grieving families, workers and indeed for all Ontarians during these difficult days. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Michael Coteau
Member of Provincial Parliament, Don Valley East
Ontario Liberal Critic for Labour

Stephen Blais
Member of Provincial Parliament, Orléans 
Ontario Liberal Critic for Government and Consumer Services

cc Bereavement Authority of Ontario, ℅ Carey Smith, CEO