(CBS SF) — State Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday warned Californians against false advertising and price gouging related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Becerra issued a consumer alert for products and services that falsely claim to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure the virus.
“There is not a cure for COVID-19. Do not be hustled by opportunistic tricksters claiming to have a miracle cure,” Becerra said.
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He noted that both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have said there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, nor is there a medicine that treats and cures it.
California’s consumer protection laws prohibit false, deceptive or misleading advertising. Becerra said any claim that is likely to mislead a consumer may result in action by his office.
False or misleading advertising can be reported to the state Attorney General’s Office at http://oag.ca.gov/report.
Becerra also warned that price gouging of items including food, emergency and medical supplies and other consumer goods is illegal during a declared state of emergency.
The state’s price-gouging law prohibits charging more than 10 percent more than the usual price that was charged for items before the emergency was declared.
Exceptions to this rule are made if the price of providing labor, goods or materials has increased during the emergency.
Violations of the price-gouging law can be criminally prosecuted and are punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, price gouging is subject to civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation.
The price-gouging law can be enforced by either local district attorneys or the state attorney general.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for California on March 4.
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