A proposed class action lawsuit claims Albertsons Companies, Inc. is one of many “unscrupulous sellers” who has profited off consumers in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis by gouging prices for toilet paper, protective equipment, cleaning supplies, and other essential items.
Following the declaration of a state of emergency on March 4, 2020 as the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order dated April 3 that extended the state’s price-gouging prohibition until September 4, the suit says. According to the 12-page case, California law prohibits sellers from raising the prices of certain essential items—including food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, and fuel—by more than 10 percent during the 30 days after a state of emergency is declared.
More specifically, Governor Newsom’s executive order declared that no person or entity is permitted to raise the price of the following items more than 10 percent higher than the highest price charged for the item on February 4, 2020:
Medical or emergency supplies; and
Any other materials designated by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services as “Scarce Materials” or “Threatened Materials” under the Defense Production Act.
According to the lawsuit, Albertsons, which operates a stable of supermarket chains that includes Safeway, sold numerous essential items at prices “far in excess” of their pre-pandemic costs.
“Not only is such gross misconduct unfair and inhumane, it is a criminal offense that constitutes a per se violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law,” the lawsuit alleges.
The plaintiff claims that she purchased from a Safeway on April 13 a package of Angel Soft toilet paper for $18.99, stressing that the item normally sells for $10-$11 at the same store.
Albertsons is far from the first company to be accused of price-gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic, with sellers such as Amazon, Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Costco facing similar lawsuits alleging price gouging on eggs and other high-demand items.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.