In response to the statewide public health emergency declaration as a result of the novel coronavirus in California, Attorney General Xavier Becerra has issued a consumer and price gouging alert across the state.
Attorney General Becerra reminds all Californians to be mindful of any products or services that falsely claim to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, nor is there a medicine that treats or cures coronavirus. California’s consumer protection laws — including the Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law and Consumers Legal Remedies Act — prohibit false, deceptive, or misleading advertising, including any advertising that explicitly claims or implies that a product treats the coronavirus.
Price gauging is also illegal in California during the declared state of emergency under Penal Code Section 396. California law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10 percent, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. 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.
To report price gouging or consumer fraud, you can:
- Submit a complaint online at oag.ca.gov/report
For additional updates on coronavirus preparedness, please visit the websites of the California Department of Public Health, Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, and Office of Emergency Services. Lastly, the Office of Treasurer Fiona Ma has also compiled a list of resources available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19:http://bit.ly/stosmallbizlist.
Please feel free to share this price gauging alert and resources with your members. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.
Brenda Vargas / External Affairs Associate / Office of Attorney General Xavier Becerra