Contra Costa DA: price gouging is illegal during state of emergency

Violators can face one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County District Attorney

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office wants to remind all residents that price gouging is illegal while our community is under a State of Emergency from the emergence of the novel coronavirus/COVID-19.

Price gouging is when a retailer or seller is attempting to take unfair advantage of the public during an emergency by increasing prices in an unreasonable manner for essential consumer goods and services. California’s anti-price gouging statute, Penal Code Section 396, prohibits raising the price of many consumer goods and services by more than 10 percent after an emergency has been declared.

Members of the public are encouraged to report any instances of gouging to our Consumer Protection Unit by email at Individuals may also fill out a consumer complaint form on our website. 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. The DA’s Office is charged with enforcing this statute. Additional civil enforcement action may also be taken by our Office to protect consumers. The California Attorney General’s Office also issued information on price gouging during this emergency.

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