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As Colusa County and the state continues to respond to the ongoing threat posed by COVID-19, the District Attorney’s Office has issued a warning to businesses and scammers not to take advantage of consumers by hiking their prices.
District Attorney Matthew Beauchamp, in a news release on Friday, said that as of March 4, when Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic, businesses and individuals have been prohibited from raising prices on essential goods or services for 30 days.
“Since then, there have been allegations reported through social media of possible price gouging in Colusa County,” Beauchamp said.
According to Penal Code Section 396, it is illegal for a business to increase its prices for essential goods or services by more than 10 percent, unless they can prove their own costs have been increased.
The law applies to consumer food items, goods or services for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, storage services, fuel such as gasoline and diesel, and motels or hotels.
Beauchamp said that while Colusa County businesses routinely come together with their community in times of need and emergency, he reminds them also to keep prices in check while a state of emergency exists.
“The Colusa County District Attorney’s Office wants to remind anyone who would give into the temptation to benefit from this emergency that our office takes price gouging very seriously and will prosecute offenders,” he said.
Price gouging is subject to criminal prosecution and carries a penalty up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 per violation, plus mandatory restitution.
Suspected price gouging can be reported to the DA’s office by calling the investigation unit at (530) 458-0545. ■