Coronavirus: Information for Consumers and Businesses

Updated March 24, 2020

The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in parts of the world, including Los Angeles County, has affected the way we live, travel, and spend money. Consumers are faced with many decisions and challenges, including avoiding scams and price gouging, and dealing with changing travel arrangements. Some businesses are dealing with a downturn in customers and profits.

Select a question or section below to learn some important tips. If you need additional help, please call DCBA at (800) 593-8222:

Price Gouging

What is price gouging?

Price gouging is the act of a business raising prices of needed products and services over 10% during a declared emergency.

Price gouging is prohibited and is governed by California Penal Code 396 and the Los Angeles County Price Gouging Ordinance. For 30 days following the declaration of emergency, it is illegal for a person, contractor, or business to sell or offer to sell any food items or goods or service for a price of more than 10 percent above the price charged by that person or business immediately before the declaration of emergency was issued.

Typically, this statute applies for 30 days after an emergency declaration. However, the statute applies for 180 days for reconstruction services and emergency cleanup services. State and local municipalities may extend the effective period of the statute beyond these timeframes.

Click to see a video about how L.A. County is protecting consumers from price gouging.

When does California’s anti-price gouging statute apply?

The statute applies immediately after the President of the United States, the Governor of California, or city or county executive officer declares an emergency resulting from any natural or man-made disaster, such as an earthquake, flood, fire, riot, storm or medical outbreaks or epidemics.

The State of California’s emergency declaration

Who is subject to the statute?

Individuals, businesses, and other entities must comply with the statute.

What goods and services does the anti-price-gouging statute cover?

The statute applies to the following major necessities: lodging (including rental housing, hotels and motels); food and drink (including food and drink for animals); emergency supplies such as water, flashlights, radios, batteries, candles, blankets, soap, diapers, temporary shelters, tape, toiletries, plywood, nails, and hammers; and medical supplies such as prescription and nonprescription medications, bandages, gauze, isopropyl alcohol, and antibacterial products.

It also applies to other goods and services including: home heating oil; building materials, including lumber, construction tools, and windows; transportation; freight; storage services; gasoline and other motor fuels; and repair and reconstruction services.

What do I do if I think a business is price gouging?

If you believe that you have been a victim of price gouging or you suspect a business is price gouging, contact the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs at (800) 593-8222.

For Renters

Is there a moratorium on evictions in L.A. County?

On March 19, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, signed an Executive Order which placed a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions in the county due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This moratorium is retroactive to March 4, 2020, the date of the County’s declaration of an emergency, and will continue through May 31, 2020.

The moratorium only applies to unincorporated L.A. County areas and does not apply to incorporated cities. As of March 19, the cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Burbank, Pasadena and six others have issued similar orders, with more forthcoming.

If you’re unsure if this executive order applies to you, please contact our Rent Stabilization Unit:

Phone: (833) 223-RENT (7368)


Avoiding Scams

I got an email about coronavirus. Is it a scam?

Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding coronavirus. They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information. They are forging emails mentioning the outbreak that appear to be from business partners or public institutions to try to get users to open the messages, unleashing malware.

Follow normal online tips to protect your money and identity. Most important, do not click on links or respond to an e-mail that you do not recognize.

The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips or fake information about cases in your neighborhood. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments.

Consumer Federation of America infographic on coronavirus scams

I heard the American Red Cross is offering home coronavirus tests. Is this true?

No. The Red Cross is not going to people’s homes to offer coronavirus tests. They are also not going door to door asking for donations. If someone comes to your house claiming to work for the Red Cross, do not allow them in your home. Call your local police or sheriff’s department.

Can I pay to be on a list to be the first to receive a vaccine?

No. Do not give money to anyone that claims a payment will put you on a list to fast-track receiving a vaccination.

There are no lists being generated for people to receive vaccinations. When a vaccine does become available, your medical provider will notify you.

Should I buy a product that claims to cure coronavirus?

Be wary of anyone touting any type of medical miracle or holistic cures. Using questionable and untested products will cost you money and potentially be dangerous to your health.

Think twice before spending money on a product that claims to cure a wide range of diseases.

Be suspect of products that provide only patient testimonials as evidence of their effectiveness. Patient testimonials can be made up and embellished, and they are no substitute for true scientific evidence.

Before using any product that makes these claims, consult with your doctor or health care professional to ensure it is safe to use.

How can I buy a kit to test myself at home for coronavirus?

Home testing kits for some common medical issues are available at many retailers. However, there are no home test kits for coronavirus.

Be wary of the unapproved or fraudulent test kits being marketed on the Internet, in magazines, and elsewhere.

Patients who suspect they may have the virus or that they may be infected should consult with a physician on the best way to provide a specimen for testing.

Should I invest in a company that’s working on a coronavirus vaccine or cure?

Be alert to “investment opportunities” or offers to crowd fund for a cure. If you see one of these promotions, ignore it.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus. The promotions claim that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

Keep in mind that contributing to a crowd fund will not guarantee any results and contributions to a crowd fund may not be refundable.

Sanitizer is sold out everywhere! How do I make my own?

Before starting to make your own hand sanitizer, it is very important to do your research. Precise measurements of ingredients are key and if not followed could actually end up casing more harm than good. If you have run out of hand sanitizer, good old-fashioned water and soap are recommended.

Sanitizers are generally safe to use when brand specific instructions are followed. Attempts to modify commercially available sanitizer can cause chemical reactions which change the formula and can make the sanitizer dangerous. Even additions such as water can cause chemical burns on the skin if it makes contact.

Please note that retailers who sell their own modified versions of sanitizer or cleaners may be held civilly and criminally liable for injuries.

How do I know my donation is going to a real charity?

How do I know my donation is going to a real charity?

In California, all legitimate charities and professional fundraisers must be registered with the California State Attorney General, Charitable Trusts Section. This office regulates charitable organizations to ensure donations contributed by Californians are not stolen or misused through fraud.

To ensure the charity you are donating to is legitimate, use the Attorney General’s Registry Verification Search here. This tool allows you to search the files of the Registry of Charitable Trusts.

Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowd funding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. Do not pay donations with gift cards or by wiring money.

For Travelers

I do not want to travel because of coronavirus. Can I get a refund from my airline or cruise line?

Contact the airline or cruise line directly to find out what their policy is on cancellations. DCBA cannot intervene in company policies regarding refunds.

Cancelling flights to destinations where there are no travel restrictions will likely result in paying the full penalty.

Passengers booked on to a flight that has been cancelled by the airline because it no longer wishes to operate the flight, are entitled to a full refund. However, you will likely not be able to recoup “consequential” losses.

In some cases, trip cancellation insurance can protect your financial investment in a trip if you need to change your itinerary in the event of an international outbreak.

Trip cancellation insurance might help ensure you are able to make a last-minute cancellation or change your itinerary in the event of an international outbreak. Be sure to check the fine print to see if your coverage includes disease outbreaks at intended travel destinations and what any restrictions might be.

Will my credit card travel insurance cover any trip cancellations or changes from coronavirus?

It depends, the question is whether you choose to cancel a trip, or if you have no control over the decision and the choice is made for you.

Credit cards will cover a canceled trip when you meet “covered situations” which typically include:

  • Accidental bodily injury, loss of life or sickness experienced by you, a traveling companion or an immediate family member
  • Severe weather that prevents the start or continuation of a trip
  • Terrorist attack or hijacking

What is “cancel for any reason” (CFRAR) coverage?

If you are concerned that the coronavirus may affect your travel, it is recommended to purchase “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) coverage.

Cancelling a trip out of worry or fear is not enough to be reimbursed for a canceled trip.

What are the eligibility requirements for CFAR coverage?

CFAR insurance must be purchased within 21 days (sometimes even within seven to 14) of paying for your trip.

You also cannot cancel any later than 48 hours before your departure and will only be reimbursed up to 75 percent of your prepaid, nonrefundable trip cost. States are responsible for regulating U.S. travel insurance and will vary state to state.

CFAR coverage policies are typically expensive and might add about 50 percent to the price of a basic policy.

A typical travel insurance policy does not cover a traveler’s decision to cancel a trip due to fear or worry about visiting an area affected by the coronavirus.

What about U.S. citizens returning from abroad?

The Department of Homeland Security is issuing instructions that require U.S. passengers whom have traveled through the Schengen area in Europe to return through selected airports. These airports have implemented enhanced screening procedures to ensure the safety of Americans. To view the notice of restrictions from the Department of Homeland Security, please follow the link here.

The Schengen area encompasses the following 26 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

U.S. citizens returning from China may be subject to up to 14 days of quarantine.

Additional information from the State Department can be found here.

Where can I find other tips about traveling during this emergency?

More Resources

Where can I find reliable information about coronavirus?

Los Angeles County Resources:

Additional Resources:

Where can I find tips to share with consumers in other parts of the U.S.?