Sonora, California – Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg announced today the following warning regarding price gouging.
The State of California is currently under the Governor’s declaration of a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 Virus. Whenever federal, state, or local authorities declare a state of emergency, it is unlawful to raise prices for essential consumer goods and services by more than 10% of the existing prices immediately prior to the declaration of emergency.
California Penal Code section 396 makes violations of this rule punishable criminally or civilly with punishment of up to one year in the county jail and a fine of up to $10,000 or a civil penalty of up to $2,500 per violation. The statute defines essential consumer goods and services broadly, including but not limited to medical supplies, emergency supplies, food, fuel, lodging, transportation, pet food, repair services, construction services, building materials, and housing rental prices.
The general rule is that any seller of certain items may not charge more than 10% over the price that was being charged just before the emergency was declared. Most consumer goods normally used for personal, family, or household purposes, including coupons or gift cards used to purchase the goods, are covered.
Consumer food items
Repair or construction services
Gasoline or other fuel
Transportation, freight, and storage services
Any rental housing with an initial lease of less than one year, including mobile home parks and campgrounds
Hotel and motel rates
There are two exceptions to this. One is if that if the item was on sale when the declaration was issued, the 10% rule applies to the normal price. The other is if there is an increased cost to the reseller due to extra labor or costs, or due to additional costs imposed by the supplier to the reseller, then the reseller cannot charge more than 10% more when taking into account those additional costs.
Here is what to look out for: Anything priced more than 10% over what the price was before the declaration – so any sudden price increases. Also use caution when dealing with resellers on websites like Craigslist and Nextdoor. Amazon and eBay have indicated they have taken steps to prohibit this by blocking new resellers of these types of goods.
Complaints regarding price gouging can be filed with the District Attorney’s Office.
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