Safeway reaches settlement over alleged price gouging of hand sanitizer during COVID-19 crisis

SAN FRANCISCO -- Safeway has reached a settlement with the Alameda and Contra Costa district attorney's offices following alleged price gouging for hand sanitizer, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The company will pay about $81,000 in civil penalties and about $62,000 in restitution for the alleged gouging that began after the pandemic started. Safeway did not admit any wrongdoing and cooperated in the investigation.

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Prosecutors said that Safeway marked up two brands of hand sanitizer by 50% over their wholesale cost, which is prohibited by an April 2020 emergency order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Customers were allegedly paying $5.99 for Raff Distillerie hand sanitizer and $9.99 for Ocean Fresh hand sanitizer, the complaint says. According to prosecutors, the prices were $.47 and $1.01 over the legally acceptable prices for the goods. Prosecutors began their investigation following a complaint by a citizen over the prices.

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As part of the judgement, Safeway must abide by California laws. Albertsons Companies, which owns Safeway, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.

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