CONSUMER CATCH-UP: Marin County DA warns price-gougers, TSA screens all-time low number of travelers, and about a third of renters didn't pay April rent

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Marin County DA warns price gougers of consequences for 'unconscionably excessive' prices

Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli has issued a warning to businesses in the county: "We will not hesitate to respond appropriately to achieve compliance with the law and protection of the public" when it comes to price gouging.

In a statement released by the DA's office on Thursday, DA Frugoli said that her office has received reports of exorbitant prices on certain consumer goods and staples, including N95 masks.

Price-gouging in California must meet certain requirements to be considered illegal. First, a state of emergency must be declared. Next, the price must be 10% over what the original cost was immediately prior to the emergency. Price-gouging laws are in effect for any consumer food item or goods, including "emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, housing, transportation/freight/storage services, or gasoline or other motor fuels."

In the current case of the coronavirus pandemic, California Governor Gavin Newsom expanded some price-gouging laws back on March 4 through an executive order. Now, overcharging for goods will be considered gouging until September 4. The order also makes it a violation to sell food or goods, including "materials designated as a scare or threatened material" at an excessive price when the seller did not previously offer those items before February 4. The order also defines a price as "unconscionably excessive" if the item is sold for "more than 50% greater than either the amount the seller paid for the item or if the seller did not purchase the item, the total cost to the seller of producing and selling the item."

Those found in violation can be charged with misdemeanors that may result in fines up to $10,000, restitution paid to victims, and up to a year in jail.

DA Frugoli urged the citizens of Marin County to get in touch with her office if they see or are the victims of price gouging. Consumers can call 415-473-6495 (English) or 415-473-6188 (Spanish), email consumer@marincounty.org, or report it to local law enforcement.

TSA screened an all-time low of travelers due to the coronavirus pandemic

The Transportation Security Administration has marked an all-time low of travelers screened in airports.

TSA Public Affairs spokesperson Lisa Farbstein tweeted: "BREAKING NEWS: On Tuesday, 97,130 individuals were screened at @TSA checkpoints nationwide. First time it's dipped lower than 100,000 during the pandemic. Yes, it's a record low. Exactly one year ago Tuesday, 2,091,056 people went through security checkpoints."

Screenings were still up to 2.1 million travelers as late as March 8. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the travel industry hard, especially due to travel bans and shelter-in-place orders, leading airlines to reduce available flights.

Almost a third of Americans didn't pay rent for April

About 31% of renters did not pay their rent for April, according to a new survey.

The National Multifamily Housing Council, which looked at data for 13.4 million units across the country, found that only 69% of renters paid their rent between April 1 and 5. During that same period in 2019, 82% of renters paid their rent on time. 81% of renters paid their rent for last month (March 2020) on time.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in significant health and financial challenges for apartment residents and multifamily owners, operators and employees in communities across the country," said Doug Bibby, President of NMHC. "However, it is important to note that a large number of residents met their obligations despite unparalleled circumstances, and we will see that figure increase over the coming weeks."

The NMHC will be updating their tracker weekly, releasing new results on Wednesdays.



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