Grocery chain Smart & Final has agreed to pay $175,000 in penalties to resolve allegations that the grocer engaged in price gouging of certain organic and cage-free eggs at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, state authorities said Tuesday.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said that between March 4, 2020, and June 22, 2020, Smart & Final increased the price of four premium egg products beyond what was allowable during a state of emergency.
An investigation found that Smart & Final sold over 100,000 cartons of eggs that were marked up by more than 10%, violating the law, Bonta said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency, triggering price-gouging protections through August 2020.
The attorney general’s office said that it received many complaints about dramatic increases in the cost of eggs after Newsom’s emergency declaration. Many related specifically to price spikes at Smart & Final stores across California.
Smart & Final said at the time, it was dealing with rapidly changing prices from suppliers in several product categories.
“We briefly and unintentionally raised the price of premium eggs to align with supplier price increases on standard eggs,” the market chain said in a statement. “We want our valued customers to know that price gouging has no place in our stores. We will continue to review our pricing to ensure it remains compliant.”
Smart & Final operates more than 250 retail stores throughout the western United States.