In response to the nationwide infant formula shortage, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance to stop price gouging at a meeting earlier this month.
The ordinance extends the enforceability of the county's price gouging restrictions through the duration of the emergency. The county initially proclaimed a local emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020, which made price gouging of consumer products prohibited, but only for 180 days after the county first proclaimed the emergency.
The new ordinance will extend anti-price gouging restrictions until 30 days after the emergency has concluded.
"It can be really tough to buy formula these days, and some young children require formula to survive," Supervisor Joe Simitian said Wednesday in a statement. "I know we can't control supply chain issues, but we can send a clear message to price gougers — who are buying up formula to resell it at a higher price — that price gouging won't be allowed."
Price gouging is a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months. Prior to the board's June 7 decision, there was no enforcement tool to pursue and punish price gouging on infant formula in Santa Clara County, according to the statement.
"Exacerbating the nationwide supply problem, reports indicate that bad actors are engaging in widespread practices to buy up and then resell infant formula at a steep markup," county Counsel James R. Williams said in his recommendation for the ordinance. "This bulk purchasing and hoarding of supplies contributes to shortages. Reselling those scarce supplies at predatory prices also exacerbates inequalities in our community, because some families simply can't afford to buy formula at an inflated price even if they have an infant who desperately needs it."
For resources on how to find infant formula or a local milk bank, visit the State of California's infant formula webpage.