Safeway Settles Consumer Protection Case For Price Gouging During COVID-19 Pandemic

October 27, 2020 17:00 pm · 30 comments

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office has received a $140,000 settlement against Pleasanton-based Safeway, Inc. as part of a civil consumer protection investigation involving price gouging.

Safeway was charging above the legal limit for two products of hand sanitizer.

Safeway started selling Raff Distillerie Hand Sanitizer and Ocean Fresh Pump Gel Hand Sanitizer after Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order related to price gouging during the state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The executive order specifically prohibits a business from charging an excessive amount for a product they sell.

“The violations at issue here are serious by their very nature. Little can be more serious than a violation of a Governor’s Emergency Order during a State of Emergency. The ongoing pandemic has affected the lives and personal hygiene practices of millions of people in California,” District Attorney Diana Becton stated. “Public health officials were advising constant handwashing to prevent the spread of the virus. If soap and water was not available, hand sanitizer was recommended as the next best thing. These are the items that Safeway sold or offered for sale at ‘unconscionably excessive’ prices.”

When the pricing issue was brought to Safeway’s attention, they immediately responded and corrected the prices to comport with the Governor’s Order. The investigation did not reveal any other actionable price gouging violations by Safeway.

According to the data provided by Safeway, the number of Ocean Fresh units sold or offered for sale at such prices was 65,088 and the number of Raff Distillerie units sold or offered for sale at such prices was 22,713. Thus, the total number of potential violations is 87,801. A violation under state law occurs when a product is individually sold above the legally permissible price.

In total, the consumer protection investigation found Safeway sold the products as follows:

  • Raff Distillerie Hand Sanitizer
    • Sold at $5.99 ($1.84 mark up per unit, 47 cents higher than allowed)
  • Ocean Fresh Pump Gel Hand Sanitizer
    • Sold at $9.99 ($4 mark up per unit, $1.01 higher than allowed)

A local consumer contacted the DA’s Office Consumer Fraud Hotline and notified our Office in May about potential price gouging at a Safeway location in Concord. Since March, our Office has received and investigated a significant number of complaints related to possible cases of price gouging in the county.

Schmee October 27, 2020 at 5:13 PM

Based on the amount of the markup I think the term price gouging is pretty excessive here. Have you ever been to a country store and tried to buy anything where they gouge you for every single item with like a 100% markup. When they are charging more than double what they should be charging then talk to me

Original G October 27, 2020 at 5:32 PM

Wow, 47 cents.
Yet misdemeanor criminals are routinely given a pass because Courts can’t handle volume of cases.

Charlie October 27, 2020 at 6:59 PM

I was thinking the same exact thing when I read this.

Exit 12A October 27, 2020 at 6:59 PM

It doesn’t matter by how much. The fact that this evil corporation gouged their “valued customers”by more than the legal established threshold is enough.

Original G October 27, 2020 at 8:16 PM

“The fact that this evil corporation gouged their “valued customers” by more than the legal established threshold…”

What a fascinating observation, . . . . . .

And that threshold is established by powers, who are also responsible for us paying highest fuel prices, highest utility costs and highest taxes.

Hmmm . . . .

bdml October 28, 2020 at 7:50 AM

Excellent point Original G!

RANDOM TASK October 27, 2020 at 6:25 PM

let me guess
the state politicians grabbed the money


Aunt Barbara October 27, 2020 at 6:40 PM

I just wish Safeway would not sell rotting produce and over expiration dates on milks, etc.

Exit 12A October 27, 2020 at 6:56 PM

Thank you Safeway for supposedly “caring” about the communities you serve.
Stock Ticker: SWY
Those “socially conscious” investors will dump the stock, right?

Janus October 28, 2020 at 6:25 AM

Economic Darwinism will decide the market place. Don’t like it, shop somewhere else.

The Masked (and gloved) Poster October 28, 2020 at 11:06 AM

There is NO stock “ticker” for Safeway any more, since they merged with Albertsons. Please try to keep up.

Sam October 28, 2020 at 12:16 PM

Democrats are the absolute most condescending apoplectic creatures on this planet. Ok safeway merged with albertsons.. Wow you’re smart I guess?? Do you guys wake up and drink vinegar? I rather sad and pitiful. I guess it’s all the winning lately that has you down…ACB, 12 more years, and taking the house…suing the governor before removing him is already happening. He won’t escape questioning or charges.

Led October 27, 2020 at 7:02 PM

I feel so protected by our state. I’ve got tears in my eyes.

Retired Attorney October 27, 2020 at 7:27 PM

Misdemeanor theft is not prosecuted because DA Becton chooses not to do so. The courts are actually not overcrowded with misdemeanors right now. That is because Becton will not prosecute because charging thieves with a crime might affect someone that has been “disenfranchised.” She literally said (in writing); before we will file charges against looters, we will review the “needs” of the looter. Under her most recent edict, you can walk into Macys or Target or any store and as long as you don’t steal more than $300 worth of merchandise, no charges will be filed. If you inject heroin at high noon on Main Street in front of school children and are arrested by any police agency in CCC, you will not be charged with a crime. I am not guessing what her policies will be; she has put all of this in writing. What have the voters done??? Downtown Walnut Creek, Danville, etc. will soon look like San Francisco.

Original G October 27, 2020 at 8:09 PM

Should be of great comfort to shop owners of Walnut Creek to know what to expect after President Trump’s reelection, since shopping without dollars crowd was put on notice by previous inaction.

Electing progressive liberal democrats has severe consequences, as we are witnessing.

JRocks October 27, 2020 at 8:29 PM

Good old fashioned cash crab. Cheaper to pay than to fight.

Just another stupid executive order. Price “gouging” during times of scarcity prevents hoarding and helps ration supply.

Dr. H. S. Thompson October 28, 2020 at 8:10 PM

Basic Economics? What are you? Some kind of Monster!

KAD October 27, 2020 at 9:31 PM

I stopped shopping at Safeway in March when I could not get groceries delivered. They lost my business forever.

addlepate October 27, 2020 at 9:37 PM

“Since March, our Office has received and investigated a significant number of complaints related to possible cases of price gouging in the county.” Okay, cool. Who do I contact about the price gouging on 580 and 680? You know, the thicker the traffic, the higher the rate to use the “Express Lane” or the toll road. This of course, is a road already paid for with taxes, but now I have to pay to use it. Seems to ke the State confiscates my rights then sells them back to me. Nevermind…you were saying something about soap or hand sanitizer…?

Schmee October 27, 2020 at 9:54 PM

Great point…

bdml October 28, 2020 at 7:53 AM

I used to have to witness this monstrosity being built as I commuted to and from San Carlos and always felt the exact same way…

Concord74 October 29, 2020 at 8:50 AM

Don’t be asking Becton for help! She is totally useless!! Besides, any complaints on activity on the freeways is Caltrans. Becerra is just as useless as Becton!

Gititogether October 27, 2020 at 10:19 PM

A fool and her becton are never parted

bdml October 28, 2020 at 7:54 AM

Nice! love the pun!

Sam Malone October 28, 2020 at 10:33 AM

This was such a small dent in their huge corporate profits that it seems a huge waste of time. Guess Becton and her cronies have a lot of time on their hands as they are no longer prosecuting criminals any longer. They are all out on the streets applying their “craft” on law abiding citizens who get stuck paying for all these criminal acts.

Good job Becton, Newsolini and Auntie Nancy.

The Mamba October 28, 2020 at 10:48 AM

So the CC DA gets $140K, how do the customers get made whole? If customers put in their frequent buyer information, or paid with a debit/credit card, they have that information. Come on man!

Sign from Above October 28, 2020 at 11:09 AM

“The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office has received a $140,000 settlement against Pleasanton-based Safeway, Inc. as part of a civil consumer protection investigation involving price gouging.”

If the Safeway customers were the true victims, why is the District Attorney’s office getting the money? Would be better allocated if Safeway was required to give some kind of a discount to customers for a specific time period.

I remember seeing those prices and thought to myself that Safeway can pack sand if they think I’m going to pay that price. They preyed on those who were panicked.

To Do List October 28, 2020 at 11:17 AM

So to understand this, take the fine of $140,000 and divide by number of sales violations of 87,000 bottles to get $1.60 per unit of hand sanitizer for the fine. So all the D.A. did was confiscate the “overcharging” amount and a little more, but Safeway still made a profit on each bottle. Instead of focusing on that, however, where did the money go for the D.A.? Are they using this like their ATM to fund something somewhere else?

Eastbay Babe October 28, 2020 at 1:50 PM

Probably made a donation to the BLM organization which in turns donates to the DNC.

Gittyup October 29, 2020 at 6:51 AM

Safeway was not alone in this. Everybody selling hand sanitizer took advantage of the situation and gouged on the price. What annoys me is that the consumer who paid too much for the hand sanitizer doesn’t get anything for their trouble. No refund of the money gouged, no discount on a future purchase. It’s just a slightly more complicated way for the State to move money out of our pockets and into theirs. We get over charged for the hand sanitizer and the State sues to fine the offender recovering some of the money … which THEY keep!

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