NEW YORK (TIP): On May 7, Alameda County DA O’Malley and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that their offices have jointly filed a nine-count misdemeanor complaint charging Apna Bazar, a large grocery store in Pleasanton, and Rajvinder Singh, the store’s owner, with price gouging.
This prosecution marks the first ever price gouging action in Alameda County.
Customers began voicing complaints about the increase in prices of food items at the Pleasanton store shortly after the state of emergency was declared in California. A chorus of complaints from shoppers reached the DA’s Office through phone calls, e-mails and postings on social media platforms.
“The law prevents businesses from profiteering when we are in a state of emergency. All businesses throughout Alameda County must be on notice that we will not sit idly by and allow consumers to fall prey to price gouging. My office will ensure that businesses adhere to the law and do not exploit consumers,” says District Attorney O’Malley.
“We take price gouging seriously and are committed to going after those who break the law during the public health emergency,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Department of Justice relies on all Californians to be vigilant in detecting price gouging. If you see something suspicious, or if you are a victim of price gouging, file a complaint. The more you report, the more we can stop this abuse.”
California law prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10 percent, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. On March 4, 2020, the Governor declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which put the price gouging law into effect.
Today’s complaint alleges that following the emergency declaration, Mr. Singh and Apna Bazar in Pleasanton illegally raised the prices of essential food items over the 10 percent threshold. (Other Apna Bazar locations in the Bay Area are not part in this investigation.)
Based on evidence provided by customer receipts and multiple interviews, the investigation confirmed pricing on several food items exceeded not only the 10 percent increase allowed during a state of emergency, but some prices being increased in excess of 300 percent more than what was previously charged.