SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — As people continue to try to purchase essential items, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office says it's protecting consumers by going after retailers who are illegally price gouging.
"We have received well over 100 calls to our tip line," said Damon Mosler, the Chief of the Econcomic Crimes Division at the DA's Office.
It's illegal for businesses to overcharge more than 10 percent for essential items during a state of emergency.
Mosler said there are currently 70 reports under investigation.
"We are going to the store to verify the price and the item and we are serving them with a warning letter explaining what the law is, explaining what the violation is," he explained.
After that the crews, who are undercover, will return to the reported store to do compliance checks and make sure the retailers are responsive to the warnings.
About a dozen business owners have been warned in the county so far.
Mosler says in most of the cases they have investigated business owners have a reason to increase prices on some items.
"Most of the store owners have been very receptive and have explained what their underlying costs are which establishes they are not price gouging, but that their wholesalers have raised the prices due to scarcity issues," said Mosler.
Price gouging is a misdemeanor. Those in violation could be cited, fined up to $10,000, or even spend time in jail.
California's Attorney General, Xavier Bacerra, recently ordered online marketplaces to put new policies in place to combat price gouging.
The San Diego Sheriff's Department recently arrested and cited eight people for selling products like, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and medical examination gloves on online apps for up to twenty times their regular retail price.
Applications like, OfferUp, have been a go-to for many San Diego residents looking to sell essential items far above their worth.
Wednesday OfferUp sent the following statement to 10News:
"The trust and safety of our community is our number one priority. Certain medical and healthcare items are not allowed for sale on OfferUp, including listings that claim the item can diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease or virus, or any items that claim to be CDC or WHO approved. For the time being, we are also removing all hand sanitizer, toilet paper, protective masks, and disinfecting items, regardless of price. These items are now prohibited on OfferUp."
"People just have to be very mindful of the situation we're all in," said Mosler. "This is very stressful. Hopefully we can get through this in a short period of time and not have to be thinking about these unfortunate issues."
If you see price gouging in San Diego County, you can report it to the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (619) 531-4070 or to the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit.