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2020 News

Consumer Protection: Shutdown of Non-Essential Businesses Will Be Enforced

April 10, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

The Bucks County Department of Consumer Protection is warning businesses that continue to operate in violation of Gov. Tom Wolf’s directives that they could face enforcement actions.

During the past week, owners of a fitness business that persisted in remaining open, despite repeated warnings from Consumer Protection officials, were issued multiple non-traffic citations by police. Also cited were two customers who patronized the business despite warning notices placed on the doors.

Finally, after the owners vowed to stay open in spite of the citations, county Health Department officials placed chains and padlocks on the entrance doors, and the business is now closed. padlock-chain-gate-771x771

On March 19, Wolf signed an order directing all “non-life-sustaining businesses” to close by March 21 or face sanctions, including possible fines. The order, designed to help limit the spread of COVID-19, was accompanied by a detailed list describing businesses that could and could not stay open.

Since then, Bucks County Consumer Protection has received many complaints, questions and other calls about whether specific businesses have complied with the governor’s order, sometimes requiring the county to investigate the circumstances.

“Almost all of the business owners in Bucks County have done the right thing and complied with the governor’s order in this difficult time,” said Consumer Protection Director Michael Bannon. “It has been made obvious to all of us that, in order to beat this virus, everyone needs to comply. Not only is the fact that it is unfair to other hardworking business owners that this business remained open, it was a flat-out health hazard. Although we all would have liked this issue to be resolved amicably, public safety must come first.”

Bannon stressed that county officials, after receiving complaints about a non-complaint business, often have learned that the business fell within the governor’s definition of a “life-sustaining” enterprise, or that it had applied successfully to the state for a waiver.

Most businesses that were found to be operating in violation of Wolf’s order voluntarily shut down after being contacted, Bannon added. In other cases, if complaints persisted about a business, county officials would pay a visit and leave a notice for the owner to contact them about the complaints.

Most either shut down after calling back or closed on their own without calling, Bannon said.

Gov. Wolf’s order is here. A list of life-sustaining businesses is here.

Penalties for not complying can include forfeiture of the ability of the business to receive disaster relief, termination of state loans or grant funding, suspension or revocation of licensure, or prosecution resulting in fines and/or jail time. Anyone with questions about Wolf’s order or about a business that may not be complying can call the county’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-942-2669, or email consumerprotection@buckscounty.org .