LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County officials urged residents Wednesday to report price gouging — defined as more than a 10% increase — amid the coronavirus pandemic and said investigators have been checking and documenting pricing on essential goods.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas filed a motion to strengthen consumer protections and urged the public to be wary of scams designed to exploit their fears. It’ not immediately clear when the motion would be heard, as the Board of Supervisors has canceled its March 24 meeting “out of an abundance of caution.”
“It is imperative that the county take all reasonable and necessary steps to protect consumers from price gouging during this emergency,” Ridley- Thomas said.
Scams and gouging should be reported to the county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, which Ridley-Thomas said would coordinate enforcement with the district attorney and attorney general.
The Board of Supervisors’ declaration of a local and public health emergency on March 4 means that it is illegal for anyone to sell or offer to sell any goods or services for a price of more than 10% of what they were charging immediately prior to the declaration.
Investigators have been deployed to document the prices of essential goods such as hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, canned goods and water, in addition to medical-related items such as masks and gloves.
Last week, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the formation of a task force to protect people from price gouging and false claims on products sold during the outbreak.
How to report price gouging
DCBA Director Joseph Nicchitta urged people contact to DCBA immediately — either online at https://dcba.lacounty.gov/ or by calling 800-593-8222 — when they suspect price gouging or other virus-related scams, including false claims of vaccines or drugs that can protect against the virus.
Criminal penalties for price gouging can lead to up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.