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Price Gouging Hand Sanitizer: Buyer Beware

Price Gouging Hand Sanitizer: Buyer Beware

Vulnerable people need hand sanitizer and disinfectant for obvious reasons, and the need has become dire during the COVID-19 outbreak. Because immuno-compromised people, caretakers, nurses, doctors, EMTs, police and first responders may not have the means to wash their hands with soap and water before and after every interaction, their need for adequate supplies of portable hand sanitizer is critical.

However, price gouging of these scarce products is happening and something that all consumers should be wary of during this crisis. Gouging is illegal in California, and the consumer has the necessary protections to prevent their victimization.  

CA Penal Code Title 10-396(a) states: “It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to protect citizens from excessive and unjustified increases in the prices charged during or shortly after a declared state of emergency or local emergency for goods and services that are vital and necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers.” (CA Gov)

The relevancy is clear. The world is in a state of emergency and the price charged for vital goods and services are protected by law against “excessive and unjustified increases in price.”

Since Disinfect Connect cannot and does not intend to dispense legal advice, definitions of the words “excessive” and “unjustified” require will take counsel from further inquiry with a lawyer or compliance expert.

NOTE: Please refer to your state legislature’s .gov website for reliable information. Disinfect Connect is not authorized to dispense legal advice; please consult a lawyer for clarification of your state law.

According to the NY Times, Healey issued an emergency regulation banning gouging in Massachusetts on March 20, 2020.

Price gouging is something that all consumers should be wary of during this crisis. 

Although I believe in the fundamental good of our society, I am not deaf to ways innocent people can be disadvantaged.

Consumers have certain rights pertaining to price gouging. For example, Los Angeles County encourages consumers who think they are victims of gouging to report suspected incidents for the protection of others and includes a phone number to their price gouging report system on their website.

Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General, said in a New York Times interview: “It’s OK to make money, it’s OK to make a profit. But there is a line.”  

Disinfect Connect’s team poses two important suggestions for spotting and avoiding price gougers. 

  1. Use your best judgment. If the price of a good seems exorbitant, it probably is.

  2. Do some research. Hand sanitizers stocked by CVS go from $0.25 to $0.80 per ounce, depending on what size you buy. When buying hand sanitizers from distilleries or other sellers, inquire about their pricing before agreeing on a quantity.

Disinfect Connect is a platform for communication between distilleries and recipients. We cannot mandate or control how distilleries produce their hand sanitizers, nor can we tell you whether or not to buy them. We cannot dispense legal advice or mitigate issues that may arise between transactions.

Please keep this in mind as you use our platform to source much-needed hand sanitizer.

We will continue to update you as more information becomes available regarding distillery-made hand sanitizer and other relevant information pertaining to disinfectant.

by Chris King / 4-4-20

Chris King is a Cal Poly English Major. He dedicates his time to Disinfect Connect by writing blog posts and producing content.