Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

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Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus
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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Source: Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office

On March 11, 2020, the Governor issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency with price-gouging protections in effect through September 4, 2020. Therefore, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced that her office will diligently investigate and prosecute cases of price-gouging for as long as Santa Barbara County is under a State of Emergency for the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

District Attorney Dudley also encouraged County residents to report any instances of price-gouging when shopping for consumer goods or medical supplies. 

California’s anti-price-gouging statute, Penal Code Section 396, prohibits raising the price of many consumer goods and services by more than 10% after an emergency has been declared. 

This law applies to any person or business selling goods or services including consumer goods, food and drink items, emergency supplies, medical supplies, storage facilities, emergency cleanup materials and transportation. 

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.  

District Attorney Dudley stated, “Local businesses have traditionally been community partners during crises, but anyone that profiteers during a state of emergency will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  County residents must have access to necessary supplies, especially when community health is at stake.”

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting consumers during this emergency.  Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of price-gouging, or who has information regarding potential price-gouging, is encouraged to immediately file a complaint with the District Attorney’s Office by completing a Consumer Complaint Form on our website (English versionSpanish version) or by calling 805-568-2300. 

For more information on price-gouging, please see the Attorney General’s website (

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ChemicalSuperFreak Mar 12, 2020 08:06 PM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

99.9% isopropanol is also ineffective. The optimal concentration for sterilization is 70% isopropanol (or ethanol), though the effective range can be 60-80%. There are a number of reasons for this, but the two most crucial are 1) Nearly pure concentrations of these alcohols evaporate too quickly to be of much use; 2) Concentrations of these alcohols approaching 100% precipitate proteins too quickly, forming a protective barrier that laminates/insulates the pathogen from further/complete sterilization. Our lab uses 70% ethanol. The choice between ethanol and isopropanol is negligible for these purposes and the choice really comes down to personal preference. As a note, I work with bacteria and mammalian cancer cell lines.

Marathoner Mar 12, 2020 10:19 PM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

Best virucidal alcohol ethanol or ispropanol study suggests differential efficacy, which may indeed be negligible but what is important is that it does confirm that concentrations < 100% are optimal.

Bene Mar 13, 2020 04:55 PM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

Chem, Thank you for your posts. It's interesting to hear input from someone in your profession. If you read this, curious what you think of the value of Vodka in having some mild cleaning effect? I know it's only 40 %, but if you let it sit a long while might it not kill some pathogens or at least act as a surfactant? Also, would wearing disposable gloves shopping etc., help protect hands so that sanitizer is not necessary at times? And why do "medical authorities" keep saying that hand washing and sanitizer is key to avoiding infection, when they also admit that the virus is likely suspended in the air long after the person/vector has left? It seems that even if one's hands are autoclaved, you could still get the virus from simply walking into a store---sans the face masks "they" are propagandizing us not to wear.

a-1584059375 Mar 12, 2020 05:29 PM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

It's been so bad on Ebay - they are trying to sell those tiny 2 oz bottles of Purell for upwards of $30! Supposedly Ebay was clamping down on that but they still seem to be up.

CoastWatch Mar 12, 2020 05:38 PM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

if you see it locally, Report it. and to the greedy lady who had a year supply of toilet paper in her cart from a local grocery store (not Costco or Smart and Final), I hope you have the runs for a month!

Seabird Mar 12, 2020 07:32 PM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

Oh come on, Coastwatch. If it were YOU that made away with a year's supply of toilet paper, you'd be on here telling everyone else to move to another city where they could afford more toilet paper. Hypocrite much?

Chip of SB Mar 12, 2020 05:54 PM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

I see two sides to "price gouging." Jacking up prices to take advantage of people dealing with an emergency situation sucks. At the same time, allowing the free market to set higher prices ensures that supplies remain available to meet demand. The more expensive something gets, the more motivation there is for new sellers to enter the market which increases supply. At the same time, higher prices discourage people from buying which lowers demand. All the stocking up that is going on now could be curtailed by higher prices. Limiting the price of a product can result in shortages by causing demand to outstrip supply. Yes, hand sanitizer may be expensive on ebay, but at least you can buy it. If the price were limited by regulation, it would simply be unavailable. As an aside, I read tickets for the last flights home from Europe were selling for over $20,000.

Marathoner Mar 12, 2020 11:54 PM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

Chlorox bleach is plentiful, cheap, effective. Wipes that come in those barrel shaped plastic cans have different disinfectant qualities and different amount of skin-friendly substances. They are more widely available. But why has our brilliant genius of a governor not followed the lead of NYS's Governor Cuomo and started production of hand sanitizer? Frankly, there is no way not to "politicize" when the elected officials fail in the most obvious duties they have - deliver testing kits and hand sanitizer. Instead, they shut down the whole economy and so we will have to deal with the result of that on top of caring for our sick friends and neighbors...all the while wondering when we will ever be able to buy hand sanitizer like New Yorkers and get tested like Koreans. I am not proud of my electeds and public health - Republic OR Democrat. And no, they did NOT have alcohol today at the 99 cent.

a-1584113384 Mar 13, 2020 08:29 AM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

If you are trying to make hand sanitizer, get 90% alcohol if possible. Your final mixture needs to be at least 60% alcohol, so if you start with 70, you will only be able to add a tiny bit of aloe.

mtndriver Mar 13, 2020 11:15 AM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

Trouble with chlorine bleach is the smell. CDC recommends 4 teaspoons (that's 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) of bleach in one quart of water, or 1/3 cup of bleach in one gallon of water, for hard surfaces. Spray on surface, do not wipe, allow to dry 15 minutes or so. I don't think you want to use this on your hands...pretty strong stuff, bleach. And don't use on surfaces that could be bleached, like wood or marble! Washing hands with soap and water is way preferable to any hand sanitizer formula. Ask any medical professional.

therealbebe Mar 13, 2020 07:48 AM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

I believe in declarations of emergency, price gouging also applies to rent prices. Landlords may not raise rent more than 10% for the duration of the emergency. This applies whether or not they begin renting to a new tenant during this time.

therealbebe Mar 13, 2020 09:42 AM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

They have to be reported to the DA first, and most people don't know about that regulation to begin with. Love the downvotes, too - must be landlords LOL!

pstarSR Mar 13, 2020 08:49 AM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

heres the old phrase we get all the time. "supply and demand dictates the price.....". Housing prices, medical supplies, food, toilet paper, and everything in between. This is how our society deals with this. Distract by saying "its normal, its supply and demand. so we can up the price cause the supply is low and demand is high" then ask for remorse and empathy during a crisis " We are in the same situation as all of you, we just got in at a better time, we just got 300 rolls of toilet paper luckily, we just bought all the hand sanitizer cause we could" when asked to share or not be so ridiculous " just because YOU didnt buy in when you should have doesnt mean I have to share"

its the same dribble from the same manipulative greedy people. when the chips fall, everyone is at risk. The people that have been price gouging us for years on rents and the same people hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer

a-1584119144 Mar 13, 2020 10:05 AM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

In a pinch, you could probably get the same effect if you made some mud and rubbed it all over your hands for 20 seconds! Nature does have solutions. Find them. Carrying mud in your pocket may suck, though.

bigone Mar 13, 2020 11:56 AM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

Let me set the record straight on the three main classes of alcohol. Many suggestions of using alcohol as a disinfectant on this thread don't mention the fact that our beloved one-party legislature quietly banned ethyl (also known as ethanol, and that type that is found in alcoholic beverages and known as or "denatured" when chemicals are added so it can't be used for human consumption and thus used as a solvent) and methyl ("wood alcohol", also used as a solvent) alcohol last year for reasons being cited as contributing to VOC (volitile organic compound) degradation of the atmosphere, or as some speculate, trying to prevent usage in methamphetamine production. Isopropyl ("rubbing", used as a disinfectant when combined with 30% water) is still legal for some reason even when sold at 99% strength - I'm presuming because it is used as the active ingredient in disinfectant evn thogh it acts as a VOC as well. I use ethanol (ethyl) in woodworking, as many due throughout the world, as it is the preferred solvent for shellac. I was dumbfounded when I went to buy a gallon at Home Depot a couple of weeks ago to make some new shellac (it has a short shelf life, so must usually be made up just before use) and found out they couldn't sell it any longer. I did find the "still- CA- legal" 99% Isopropyl at Home Improvement Center two weeks ago, which can be used in that concentration in place of ethanol for shellac, although it evaporates slower than the other types, which makes it more effective as a disinfectant and one of the reasons it is used in that capacity. There were about 20 ($25) one-gallon containers of it. I noticed they were all missing from the shelves a couple of days ago when I was there again. Panic buying? I usually see both 70% and occasionally 99% isopropyl at drug stores selling for less than $1.50 a pint, so it's disturbing to see the price at $7.99 as someone mentioned.

a-1584142851 Mar 13, 2020 04:40 PM
Price Gouging Laws in Effect for Coronavirus

Clorox, Lysol and hydrogen peroxide can also be used for hard surface disinfectants. Soap and water for hand, esp. fingers, disinfecting. Disinfecting is not sterilization. Duration of contact of the disinfecting agent is material. Wash your hands and don't stick your fingers into your own mouth, nose and eyes. Good protocol in any situation. Might as well learn it now.

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