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By Rylie Friesen-–
The State of California is currently under a public health emergency declared by the Governor in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which means laws barring price gouging are in affect in Citrus Heights and across the state.
Price gouging is defined as raising prices “for essential consumer goods by more than 10% of the existing prices immediately prior to the declaration of emergency,” according to the Sacramento County’s District Attorney’s Office, which sent out a news release on the topic last month.
The DA’s office said essential consumer goods include, “but are not limited to,” emergency supplies, medical supplies, food, lodging, pet food, repair services, transportation, fuel, building materials, and housing rental prices.
The California Department of Justice says that the statute generally applies for 30 days after the declaration of a public emergency.
Price gouging can result in a fine of up to $10,000 and a year of jail time, or civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation.
The District Attorney’s Office says there are two exceptions to the price gouging statute. If the product was on sale when the declaration was issued, the 10% rule applies to the normal price.Additionally, prices can increase beyond 10% if there is an increased cost to the reseller due to “extra labor or costs, or due to additional costs imposed by the supplier to the reseller.”
When accounting for those additional costs, the seller cannot charge more than 10%.
While laws barring price gouging enjoy popular support, some economists argue that increased prices can help prevent consumers from hording goods during a crisis and help ensure shelves remain stocked during an emergency. They argue that consumers will be more likely to buy only what they need when faced with a higher sticker price.
According to the New York Times, 34 states have laws against price gouging.
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