Coronavirus outbreak leading to illegal price-gouging, California AG warns

LOS ANGELES -- Anxiety over the coronavirus outbreak is leading to a shortage in products such as hand sanitizer and cleaning solution.

It's also leading to reports of price gouging.

Products like hand sanitizer and face masks can be found at steep markups on online sellers.

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On Amazon, some sellers were offering a two-pack of Purell for $84.99 and face masks at a markup of 582%.

And that has California Attorney General Xavier Becerra offering a sharp warning: Price gouging during a declared public health emergency is illegal and will be prosecuted.

"These price-gouging restrictions make it illegal for businesses to raise the prices of most goods and services by more than 10%," Becerra said. "Those goods and services include but are not limited to emergency supplies, medicine and medical supplies, food and drink."

Amazon says it is trying to crack down on price gouging and scams, such as products that make false claims about fighting or preventing the coronavirus.

Becerra says violation of price-gouging laws can be punished with up to one year in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.

Anyone who wishes to file a complaint or report information about possible price-gouging is asked to call Becerra's office at (800) 952-5225.

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