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Napa County warns against price gouging during coronavirus emergency

Napa County warns against price gouging during coronavirus emergency

From the Complete coronavirus coverage from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan series

Napa County is encouraging residents to report any illegal price hikes on essential goods while emergency alerts stemming from the coronavirus pandemic are in effect.

California law prohibits price gouging — the raising of prices on many consumer goods and services by more than 10% — after a state of emergency has been declared by the U.S. president or the state governor. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency March 4 in response to the COVID-19 virus, and Napa County restrictions limit crowd sizes to fewer than 50 people.

Anyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, is asked to file a complaint with District Attorney Allison Haley by visiting countyofnapa.org/da/consumerdivision or by calling 707-253-4059, the agency announced Tuesday.

The anti-gouging law applies to sellers of services including lodging, rental housing, consumer food and drink, food and drink for animals, gasoline, emergency supplies, medical supplies, transportation, storage, building materials, emergency cleanup materials, and repair and reconstruction services.

The statute generally applies for 30 days after a declaration of emergency, although for reconstruction services and emergency cleanup services, it applies for 180 days after a declaration of emergency.

Violations of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Violators are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, injunctive relief, and mandatory restitution.

For more information on price gouging, see the California Attorney General’s website at oag.ca.gov/consumers/pricegougingduringdisasters.

Editor’s note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to all online readers. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit napavalleyregister.com/members/join/.

You can reach Howard Yune at 707-256-2214 or hyune@napanews.com.

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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