City to prosecute businesses suspected of coronavirus-related price gouging

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) — The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office advised local business owners and consumers Monday that it will prosecute businesses that unnecessarily raise prices during the coronavirus state of emergency.

Overcharging for essential goods or services by more than 10% is illegal unless the business can show their own costs have increased, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Violations of the price gouging statute — which applies to food and drink, emergency supplies and medical supplies — can result in penalties of up to one year in county jail or a fine of up to $10,000, in addition to civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.

“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.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in California on Wednesday in response to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, that originated in China and has now spread to dozens of countries.

The District Attorney’s Office stated that hotels and motels are also prohibited from raising rates by more than 10% during a declared emergency or for 30 days following a state of emergency.

Consumers were also warned to beware of fake websites, emails, texts and other messages from persons claiming to be from the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or anyone claiming to have a coronavirus cure or vaccination.

Suspected price gouging can be reported to the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at 619-531-3507 or the Attorney General’s Office at https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/pricegougingduringdisasters.

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