TORONTO - Ontario's ombudsman says he's looking into complaints about the province's controversial eco fee to see if an investigation is needed.

The New Democrats asked him to investigate the fees and potential abuses of the program, which has caught many consumers by surprise.

In a letter to the NDP, ombudsman Andre Marin says his office received a number of individual complaints about the fees.

A special response team has been tasked with conducting a “thorough assessment” of the issues that have been raised to see if a “systemic” investigation is warranted.

The fees - which range from a few cents to $6.66 - fund a recycling program that diverts potentially hazardous items, such as fire extinguishers, household cleaners and paint from Ontario's landfills.

But there was no public warning that the eco fee, which was first introduced in 2008, would be slapped on thousands of new items on July 1.

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