Staff Report

Gov. Gavin Newsom, on March 11, issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency with price-gouging protections in effect through Sept. 4.

As a result, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley has announced 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, or COVID-19.

Dudley urged 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 percent after an emergency has been declared.

The 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.

“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,” Dudley said. “County residents must have access to necessary supplies, especially when community health is at stake.”

Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of price-gouging, or who has information regarding potential price-gouging, is urged to file a complaint with the District Attorney’s Office by completing a Consumer Complaint Form online at by calling 805-568-2300.

For more information on price-gouging, visit