Consumer Hotline Established to ID Businesses Engaged in Gouging

Consumer Hotline Established to ID Businesses Engaged in Gouging

News Staff

A consumer protection hotline is available to Riverside County residents who believe there are businesses engaged in price gouging related to the novel coronavirus emergency, authorities said Tuesday.

Both the state and county have prohibitions against gouging, which the law defines as businesses that raise prices in excess of 10% on goods and services generally recognized as essential — food, fuel, shelter — during a state of emergency.

The hotline set up by county District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigations staff is 951-955-0764. Complaints may also be lodged online at https://bit.ly/2WfQNID, or directly to the California Department of Justice at https://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin released a statement last week vowing to protect “the public and consumers during this health crisis.”  He noted that any form of price gouging is a potential misdemeanor offense.

“Those who price gouge are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a sentence of up to a year in county jail and/or fines up to $10,000,” according to a D.A.’s statement. “There also can be civil penalties, including a fine of $5,000 per violation, restitution to the victim or victims and a court order to stop.”

No merchants within the county have been charged yet in the current state of emergency.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on March 4, about a week before President Trump made a national emergency proclamation.