Currently, Trinity County has no confirmed cases of community-spread COVID-19 coronavirus. California has also declared a state of emergency due to the spread of COVID-19 in various communities in the state, as has Trinity County. The governor has advised that the statewide protections against price gouging will stay in effect at least until September 4.
Trinity County District Attorney Donna Daly alerts all Trinity County businesses and consumers that price gouging is illegal during a declared emergency, pursuant to Penal Code section 396.
Price gouging occurs when a merchant takes unfair advantage of consumers by greatly increasing prices for essential consumer goods and services during a state or local emergency. The statute applies to the following major necessities: lodging (including permanent or temporary rental housing, hotels, motels, and mobile homes); food and drink (including food and drink for animals); emergency supplies such as water, flashlights, radios, batteries, candles, blankets, soaps, diapers, temporary shelters, tape, toiletries, plywood, nails, and hammers; and medical supplies such as prescription and nonprescription medications, bandages, gauze, isopropyl alcohol, and antibacterial products.
It also applies to other goods and services including: home heating oil; building materials, including lumber, construction tools, and windows; transportation; freight; storage services; gasoline and other motor fuels; and repair and reconstruction services.
Violations of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Violations are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation, injunctive relief, and restitution.
The Trinity County District Attorney's Office will be vigilant about enforcing this statute to protect consumers during this time. Anyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, should file a complaint with the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, or mail it to the District Attorney's Office, or call the District Attorney's Office Investigator, Matt Mandolfo, at 623-1304.
Listed below are additional fraudulent practices that are currently circulating around the country which attempt to take advantage of the fear and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus. There are additional resources available to avoid being the victim of a fraud.
Cures and Treatments – The FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs or other products currently available to treat or prevent Coronavirus. Yet several companies have advertised they have treatments or cures for this particular virus. The FDA and FTC recently issued warning letters to seven companies that were advertising and selling such products. www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/ftc-fda-warnings-sent-sellers-scam-coronavirus-treatments
Phishing Emails Appearing to be from the CDC or WHO – Be wary of emails claiming to be from the CDC, the WHO, or other similar public health agencies. They certainly will not ask you for your personal information, such as your Social Security number, bank account numbers, or logins and passwords. The best place to find up-to-date information from these organizations is on their websites: CDC - www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html, WHO - www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019.
Fake Charities – People often want to help out by donating to a charity during times of crisis. Unfortunately, crises also bring out fake charity schemes. The FTC has advice on how to research your chosen charity to make sure it is a legitimate organization. www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/how-donate-wisely-and-avoid-charity-scams.