The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has issued a stern reminder to all residents and retailers within the region that price gouging is illegal while the community is under a state of emergency from the emergence of the novel coronavirus.
According to DA officials, price gouging is the process of attempting to take unfair advantage of the public during an emergency situation, by significantly increasing prices in an “unreasonable manner” for essential consumer goods and services.
Specifically, California's anti-price gouging statute prohibits raising the price of essential goods and services by more than 10% after a state of emergency has been declared. Violating the statute -- California Penal Code Section 396 -- can result in a one year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000, according to the DA’s Office.
Violators are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation, injunctive relief and restitution.
“Communities throughout our state are working to prevent and treat this public health threat,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Californians shouldn’t have to worry about being cheated while dealing with the effects of coronavirus."
"Our state’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on medical supplies, food, gas, and other essential supplies," Becerra added. "I encourage anyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, to immediately file a complaint through my office’s website, call (800) 952-5225, or contact their local police department or sheriff’s office.”
Residents are encouraged to report any instances of price gouging to the Contra Costa County DA’s Consumer Protection Unit via email at DA-ReportFraud@contracostada.org. Residents can also fill out a consumer complaint form online at www.contracosta.ca.gov.