Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Investigating Price Gouging After Councilmember Complaint

Published On April 8, 2020 | By Rob Arias | Coronavirus, Crime & Public Safety, News & Commentary

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.

“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.

“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.

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.


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About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

7 Responses to Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Investigating Price Gouging After Councilmember Complaint

  1. Westoaklander says:

    FYI, “KN-95” is a Chinese mask type for which the FDA issued an emergency use authorization on 4/3/20; the CDC lists it as a suitable alternative when N95s are not available. See https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/health/coronavirus-n95-kn95-masks.html. I’ve seen KN95s sold online within the past days for $5/each and less and I’m guessing that prices will continue to fall; more are being exported now that the peak has passed in parts of China and mfrs. there now have surpluses. They don’t look to me to be quite as good as N95s since they don’t form a rigid seal around the perimeter of the mask while on your face, the way an N95 does – but they’re much better than a bandanna.

  2. Betty Tyler says:

    Thanks, D.A.!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I guess after their recent remodeling they need a way to pay for it.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think you’re referring to that new super Shell but this looks like the Chevron on Powell & Hollis to me.

      • Which one was most recently remodeled? says:

        “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.”
        – Benjamin Franklin

      • Anonymous says:

        Powell and Hollis was recently remodeled (in fact the store was closed for several months)

  4. It's OK for SEIU to price-gouge says:

    March 26, 2020 OAKLAND, Calif. – The Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) has {located 5 days ago} 39 million critically needed N95 masks and is connecting states, counties, health systems and individual hospitals to the supplier so they can purchase them in quantity.

    The union said it will be selling the masks to states, counties and hospitals for $5 apiece.

    Similar N95 masks are available on the Home Depot website for $23.97 for a box of 20, or about $1.20 apiece.

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