CALIFORNIA—California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a price gouging alert on Wednesday, March 4 following the statewide public health emergency declaration in California. Under Penal Code Section 396, price gouging is illegal in all California communities during the declared state of emergency.

“Californians shouldn’t have to worry about being cheated while dealing with the effects of coronavirus,” said Attorney General Becerra. California law prohibits charging a price that exceeds more than 10 percent the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. This law applies to those who sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, and gasoline.

The law also applies to repair or reconstruction services, emergency cleanup services, transportation, freight and storage services, hotel accommodations, and rental housing.
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 $2,500 per violation, injunctive relief, and mandatory restitution. The Attorney General and local district attorneys can enforce the statute.

Written By Alondra Arana