Preventing Price Gouging Amid the COVID-19 Emergency

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas filed a motion to strengthen consumer protections in Los Angeles County because of concerns about price gouging amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. He also urged the public to be wary of scams and other attempts to exploit their fears, and to report complaints to Los Angeles County’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA).

“It is imperative that the County take all reasonable and necessary steps to protect consumers from price gouging during this emergency,” the Supervisor said.

The County’s Board of Supervisors and Public Health Department declared a local and public health emergency on March 4, 2020, in response to the increased spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus across the country and in the County.

For 30 days following the declaration of such an emergency, it is illegal for a person, contractor, or business to sell or offer to sell any food items or goods or service for a price of more than 10 percent above the price charged by that person or business immediately before the declaration of emergency was issued.

Since the emergency declaration, DCBA has deployed investigators countywide to document the prices of essential goods which, in this case, includes hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, canned goods, water, in addition to medical related items such as masks and gloves.

DCBA is also conducting education and outreach– online ads, social media blasts and press events with business organizations.

Its website — https://dcba.lacounty.gov/ — offers assistance to consumers and businesses.

DCBA Director Joseph Nicchitta urged people contact DCBA immediately, either by going to the department’s website or by calling (800) 593-8222 when they suspect price gouging and other efforts to take advantage of people’s fears over coronavirus.

DCBA will coordinate enforcement with the Office of the County Counsel, the District Attorney, and the Attorney General as appropriate.