The Orange County District Attorney has informed businesses that price gouging during the coronavirus outbreak and other scams are illegal and will be prosecuted. A hotline has been made available for resident reports.
Residents are requested to give the name and address or city of the person or business that is involved and a description of the misconduct. Those who report may remain anonymous, but they are required to leave contact information. Contact numbers will be confidential.
It is illegal to mark up prices on essential products and services over 10% unless there is evidence that there is an increase in production cost. Violations of price gouging are subjected to criminal prosecution of $10,000 in fines and or a year in county prison. There is also an additional violation fine per sale up to $5,000 per violation, and offenders must return the money made through price gouging.
These laws apply to food and drink, including food and drink for animals; emergency supplies like water, radio, candles, diapers, soap, batteries and flashlights; and medical supplies including prescription and nonprescription medication, isopropyl alcohol, antibacterial products, gauze and bandages.
It is also illegal for hotels and motels to increase their rates over 10% both during a declared state of emergency and 30 days after.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4, and Orange County was placed in a local shutdown on Feb. 26.
“This global pandemic has understandably caused widespread anxiety and fear. Exploiting the public’s panic is not a defense to engaging in criminal activity. The County District Attorney’s Office is committed to ensuring that those criminals who break the law and prey on vulnerable victims are held accountable” Orange County’s District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.
The district attorney’s office warns Orange County residents of scams that often take place during emergency situations. These include those who pretend to be charities such as the World Health Organization, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To get in contact with the hotline, call (714) 834-3482 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chloe Mosier is a Staff Writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.