The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is investigating complaints of price-gouging in Emeryville after a citizen complaint was forwarded to a councilmember.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s office recently provided updated protections against price gouging in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The shelter-in-place order and CDC recommendations have led to sparser inventory of items like N-95 masks, hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
Emeryville councilman reported price gouging to Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. “I’m going to let the DA go get them first,” he said in response to someone asking where it was happening. https://t.co/X9Jj7Y2fLz
— David DeBolt (@daviddebolt) April 7, 2020
“Price gouging is illegal and if you do it in Emeryville, you WILL be prosecuted,” threatened Bauters in a tweet.
While Bauters was evasive about where the alleged offense occurred, KTVU news captured a sign advertising KN-95 masks for $10 each at a local gas station. KN95 masks just received approval from the FDA in response to a shortage of K95 masks and are said to be similar in performance. Prices and quality of the masks vary, but The Home Depot sells a 5-pack online for about $22 or $4.39 each.
The KTVU story also noted reports of markets selling bottles of hand sanitizer for $8 each.
N95 masks selling for $10 apiece at gas station in Emeryville https://t.co/8Rudh2mJfn
— KTVU (@KTVU) April 8, 2020
“Those cases will be forwarded to the Alameda County DA’s office for prosecution,” replied the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office via Twitter. “There is no tolerance for those who take advantage of our community members.”
Under an Executive Order passed by Governor Gavin Newsom on February 4, it is illegal for a person or business to charge more than 10% above the asking price “regularly“ charged.
The following products are included in the order:
- Food items
- Consumer goods
- Medical or emergency supplies
- Respirators, masks, personal protective equipment for medical providers, ventilators, and certain medications
A violation of this order is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
The Alameda County DA’s Office will investigate complaints of illegal price gouging. Anyone who has been the victim of or has information regarding price gouging is asked to immediately file a complaint with the DA’s Office at https://t.co/IhJo5tSWXH or call (510) 383-8600. pic.twitter.com/8cUJBLfrC6
— AlCo DA’s Office (@AlamedaCountyDA) April 8, 2020
Some argue that dramatic price increases or “gouging” is a natural market reaction to demand and that these higher prices discourage hoarding. Hoarding is also illegal although enforcement generally falls on the seller to apply limits.
The Federal administration took similar action against price gouging and hoarding two weeks ago.