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San Diego DA warns of price gouging amid coronavirus

Posted at 4:09 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 21:48:37-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- San Diego County’s District Attorney Monday warned of price gouging amid the coronavirus.

During a declared state of emergency, it’s illegal for a business to increase prices for essential goods or services by more than 10 percent. The only exception is if businesses can prove their own costs have increased.

On March 4, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency throughout California.

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors also extended a state of emergency for an additional 30 days on February 19.

“We want county residents to know that we stand ready to protect their consumer rights under the law,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “We will strictly enforce violations related to price gouging.”

Violations of the price gouging statute could face up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

"We're going to go out when we get citizen complaints and provide them notice and explain to them what the law is," said Damon Mosler, Chief of the Economic Crimes Division for the DA's office. "then we're going to monitor them if they continue to do that, we're going to charge them with a crime."

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It’s also a misdemeanor for a hotel or motel to increase regular rates by more than 10 percent during a declared emergency.

"Do not take advantage of people during the time of crisis or perceived crisis," said Mosler. "The idea is for us to all work together and hopefully get through this very difficult situation."

Check the list below for items that are covered under the law:

  • Food and drink, including for animals
  • Emergency supplies like water, flashlights, radios, batteries, candles, blankets, soaps, diapers, toiletries
  • Medical supplies such as prescription and nonprescription drugs, bandages, gauze, isopropyl alcohol, and antibacterial products

The public can report suspected price gouging to the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (619) 531-3507 or to the California Attorney General’s Office here.

Mosler said at least one case of suspected price gouging is being investigated in San Diego.