In March and April, when the coronavirus really began spreading throughout the United States, many Californians rushed to the store to stock up on essentials: hand sanitizer, hand soap, paper towels and toilet paper. N95 masks were nearly impossible to find for those who really needed or wanted them.
While supplies were low, however, California retailers legally couldn’t hike up prices drastically. Price gouging during an emergency in California is illegal. In fact, retailers can’t raise the price of goods or services more than 10% after the president, governor or city mayor declares an emergency. The emergency declaration usually lasts 30 days, but government officials can extend it (as has been the case during the coronavirus pandemic).
What’s covered under California’s anti-price gouging statute?
The goods and services covered by California’s anti-price gouging law include the following:
- Food and drink (including food and drink for animals)
- Lodging (including apartment rentals)
- Medical supplies
- Prescription and nonprescription medication
- Antibacterial products
- Building materials
- Storage services
- Repair and reconstruction services
The consequences of violating the price gouging law are a one-year prison sentence or a $10,000 fine.
What if I’m a victim of price gouging?
If you feel you have been a victim of price gouging during the current health crisis, contact an experienced attorney. An attorney can review your claim to see if price gouging occurred and formulate a plan to protect your consumer rights.