Under the terms of the plea agreement, grocery store Apna Bazar pleaded guilty to two counts of price gouging and will donate $20,000 to local food bank
SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Justice (CADOJ) and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley today announced a plea agreement with a Pleasanton grocery store for price gouging during the pandemic. Grocery store Apna Bazar pleaded guilty to two counts of price gouging, and will also make a $20,000 donation to the Alameda County Community Food Bank. In May 2020, CADOJ and DA O’Malley announced charges against Apna Bazar for illegally raising the prices of essential food items far beyond the cap imposed under Governor Gavin Newsom’s state of emergency declaration related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered the price gouging protections of Penal Code section 396.
“The law prevents businesses from profiteering during a declared state of emergency. This case marks the first successful prosecution in Alameda County for price gouging in the time of the pandemic,” said District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. “My office is committed to ensuring that businesses adhere to the law and do not exploit consumers.”
“This year has been difficult for all of us, and many neighbors have needed a helping hand to ensure that their family members were nourished and remained healthy,” said Suzan Bateson, Executive Director of Alameda County Community Food Bank. “This donation will help us provide thousands of meals to children, adults, and seniors.”
In April 2020, during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, CADOJ and the Alameda County DA’s office received numerous complaints that the Apna Bazar grocery store in Pleasanton, California was engaged in price gouging on several food items. A joint investigation into purchase receipts provided by the complainants found an increase in sales price ranging between 60% and 400% for several grocery items sold before and after the Governor’s March 4, 2020 emergency declaration. The food items listed in the complaint included yellow onions, ginger, green beans, instant noodles, tea, chili peppers, pomegranates and red yams. On May 7, 2020, CADOJ and DA O’Malley charged Apna Bazar and its owner, Rajvinder Singh, each with nine counts of price gouging.
On April 19, 2021, Apna Bazar pleaded guilty to two counts of violating Penal Code section 396(b). The remaining seven counts against Apna Bazar were dismissed. Apna Bazar will also donate $20,000 to the nonprofit Alameda County Community Food Bank. Charges against Mr. Singh were dismissed.
Penal Code section 396(b) states that during a declared state of emergency, and for 30 days following the declaration, price increases on certain goods and services may not exceed 10 percent of the item’s price before the state emergency was declared. Under the Governor's current emergency declaration, it is illegal to price gouge on emergency and medical supplies.
If you have been the victim of price gouging, or have information regarding potential price gouging, you can file a complaint at oag.ca.gov/report.
A copy of the plea agreement is available here.