D.A. cracks down on price-gouging

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

D.A. cracks down on price-gougingDistrict Attorney Cynthia Zimmer issued a warning Monday for Kern County residents to beware of unscrupulous individuals who attempt to profit from the recent emergency declarations by engaging in illegal price gouging or charitable solicitation fraud.

Following last summer’s earthquakes, Zimmer issued a similar alert after reports throughout the region began circulating that individuals were selling water and other essential items for prices far above market value.

On the national scene, online vendors and criminal justice stewards have been dealing with individuals who are hoarding water, hand-sanitizer, toilet paper and other items to sell at a steep profit.

According to California law, said Zimmer, that practice is illegal during the declaration of an emergency (made March 4 by Gov. Newsom and March 13 by President Trump, in light of coronavirus concerns).

“It is illegal to charge a price for essential goods and services that is more than 10 percent higher than the price charged immediately before the emergency declaration, a practice commonly known as price gouging,” said Zimmer.

“The law applies to consumer food items, goods, or services used for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, storage services, gasoline, and other motor fuels.

“Price gouging is subject to criminal prosecution and carries a penalty of up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Violators may also face civil enforcement actions and penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, plus mandatory restitution.”

The KCDA’s office also cautioned residents to be aware of unfamiliar individuals or organizations soliciting funds in support of vulnerable populations, like those who are ill and/or quarantined. Residents are cautioned to give money only to charities and relief organizations with which they are familiar and whose proper contact information can be verified.

“Kern County businesses historically have shown great restraint and compassion for those affected by emergencies and disasters. For any who would give in to the temptation to benefit from others’ misfortune, we will take price gouging and charitable solicitation fraud very seriously and will prosecute to the full extent of the law.”

Incidents of suspected Price Gouging occurring in Kern County can be reported to the Kern County District Attorney by calling the main office at 661-868-2340.

Pictured: Kern County DA Cynthia Zimmer addresses the Ridgecrest Republican Women Friday in Ridgecrest. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-03-16