Price Gouging is a Crime
Inyo County District Attorney Tom Hardy wants to remind local citizens of California’s anti-price gouging laws. “The health and safety of our community is everyone’s primary concern right now, and it is gratifying to see the citizens and businesses of Inyo County working together in our current challenging times. But, California’s legislature long-ago implemented a law to protect citizens from price gouging during declared emergencies”.
California law generally prohibits businesses and individuals from raising prices for 30 days after an emergency declaration. Declarations of emergency have been made by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, the Governor, and the President regarding the Coronavirus, triggering the effect of price-gouging laws.
“At this point in time, we are not aware of any incidents of price gouging in Inyo County, and our business community deserves high praise for working long hours to provide necessary goods and services to our citizens,” said Hardy.
Under Penal Code Section 396, it is illegal to charge a price for essential goods and services that is more than 10 percent higher than the price charged immediately before the emergency declaration, a practice commonly known as price gouging. The law applies to consumer food items, goods, or services used for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, storage services, gasoline, and other motor fuels. Price gouging is subject to criminal prosecution and carries a penalty of up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Violators may also face civil enforcement actions and penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, plus mandatory restitution.
If anyone becomes aware of incidents of price gouging, they should report the problem to the District Attorney Criminal Investigations Division at 760.873.7987. Reports can also be submitted via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.