Kern County District Attorney's office warns residents to 'be aware' of price gouging

Posted at 11:43 AM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-16 14:43:06-04

Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer is warning Kern County residents about possible price gouging following the president's and governor's emergency declarations.

According to a release from the DA's office, news of the emergency declarations on March 4 and 13 are triggering the effect of price-gouging laws. However the DA's office shared that this has not been the case locally so far.

“Kern County businesses historically have shown great restraint and compassion for those affected by emergencies and disasters," the release said. "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.”

California law generally prohibits businesses and individuals from raising prices for 30 days after an emergency declaration. The District Attorney 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.

The Better Business Bureau said over the last few weeks, it received reports from consumers about the frequency of scams involving the coronavirus.

According to the BBB, it is encouraging state attorneys general offices to initiate state price-gouging laws, which automatically go into effect during a declared state of emergency in order to prevent businesses from over-charging customers who are preparing to take preventative measures from getting sick.

The BBB is also warning businesses to avoid the temptation to raise prices during a situation such as storm or a pandemic because it may be illegal to do so in certain states and because it erodes marketplace trust.