Super Liquor at 4045 W. Figarden Dr. in Fresno faces the city's first fine for price gouging. Image via loopnet.com.
Written by Frank Lopez
Fresno City Council Members Miguel Arias and Mike Karbassi announced Friday the first $10,000 fine for price gouging was imposed on a Fresno business.
Ravinder Singh, owner of Super Liquor at 4045 W. Figarden Dr. violated a price gouging ordinance authored by the councilmembers and unanimously approved earlier this week by the council, according to city officials.
Singh told The Fresno Bee he will fight the citation.
The ordinance institutes a freeze on price increases for consumer goods of more than 10% above prices charged for such goods as of March 4.
The council members said the store had 24-count cases of bottled Aquafina water on sale for $16.
The Fresno City Council passed the ordinance to avoid having to arrest business owners caught price gouging, and gives code enforcement officers the authority to immediately take actions against businesses in violation of the ordinance.
Arias said that the code enforcement team has already visited 442 businesses in the city, posting price gouging notices on store windows, and informing business owners and cashiers of the price gouging ordinance.
The city’s code enforcement department is currently investigating 44 complaints of price gouging around the city. Super Liquor is the first to receive the $10,000 fine.
There are currently 40 to 60 Fresno code enforcement employees visiting businesses to investigate illegal price gouging.
City Attorney Douglas Sloan said that Super Liquor is also being investigated for discrimination, as according to complaints, different people were being charged different prices, which also contributed to the business receiving the full $10,000 fine.
“We don’t take any pleasure in fining businesses at this time of declaration of emergency, but we will not tolerate any residents being price gouged during a crisis,” Arias said.
Karbassi said that the business had a chance to know what the policies were, but that they chose on multiple occasions, with a number of different people, to charge higher prices and discriminate.
“The last thing I want is for a senior, desperate to get water, go to a neighborhood market and be gouged and charged far more than the market rate for that item because someone wants to raise a quick buck,” Karbassi said.
The $10,000 fine was imposed Thursday for the emergency ordinance violation. The business has until April 20 to pay the fine.
Based on the severity of a violation, businesses could be fined anywhere from $0 to $10,000, Arias said.
A message left at the store seeking comment from the owner Friday afternoon was not immediately returned.