District Attorney Jill Ravitch today issued a consumer alert warning that price gouging on consumer goods or medical supplies is prohibited under Penal Code Section 396 while under a State of Emergency due to the novel Coronavirus. District Attorney Ravitch stated that her office will investigate and prosecute those that attempt to take unfair advantage of consumers during this health emergency.
“California’s price gouging law prevents business from wrongfully profiteering on essential goods, supplies and services during an emergency,” said District Attorney Ravitch. “I urge all businesses operating in and around Sonoma County to understand and comply with the law, and 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 at http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/District-Attorney/, or by calling (707) 565-5317.”
California’s anti-price gouging statute, Penal Code Section 396, prohibits raising the price of many consumer goods and services by more than 10% after an emergency has been declared. Both Governor Gavin Newsom and the Sonoma County Department of Health Services have declared a state of emergency because of the spread of COVID-19.
The law applies to those who sell consumer goods or services, including food and drink items, emergency supplies, medical supplies, storage, and emergency cleanup materials. The Governor’s Proclamation of a State of Emergency explicitly states that price gouging protections will remain in effect through September 4, 2020.
Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Violators are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, injunctive relief and mandatory restitution.