Illegal Price Gouging During Coronavirus COVID-19 Emergency


The Governor issued a proclamation of a state of emergency to deal with the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 on March 4, 2020.

Price gouging, as defined in Penal Code section 396, is illegal after such a proclamation or declaration.  Specifically, it is a crime to sell items such as consumer food items or goods, and emergency or medical supplies, during the state of emergency or local emergency for a price that is more than 10% greater than the price charged by the seller of those goods or services immediately before the proclamation or declaration of the emergency.  There is an exception if the price increase is because of additional costs imposed by the supplier of the goods or for additional costs for labor or materials.  A violation of section 396 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

A person who would like to report an incident of price gouging in San Mateo County should contact the District Attorney’s Office by calling (650) 363-4403 or complete the Price Gouging Incident Report, which is attached below.  The form can be emailed to: or sent by US mail to San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, Hall of Justice and Records, 400 County Center, 3rd Floor, Redwood City, CA 94063.