California Class Action Accuses Companies of Price Gouging Eggs During COVID-19

Consumers, including 10 named plaintiffs, filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that essential groceries and specifically eggs were “grossly marked-up,” by producers, wholesalers, and retailers. They say the price was almost tripled before the end of March. The lawsuit was filed against multiple defendants including Cal-Maine Foods, Hickman’s Egg Ranch, Daybreak Foods, Costco, Wal-mart, Amazon.

The complaint argues that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a wide impact and has caused many to be out of work or have reduced salaries. “As in any time of economic turmoil, there are those who seek to profit from the misery of millions,” the complaint claims, alleging that producers and retailers of eggs fit into this category because they are seeking to profit from “increased consumer demand for eggs in the midst of the ongoing crisis.”

The complaint cites that during a state of emergency it is illegal under California law to increase the price of a product more than 10 percent. A state of emergency was called in California on March 4. They clarify that they are not asserting each defendant has engaged in price gouging, because they as consumers don’t have access to price-setting information, but allege that at “at a minimum,” some of the defendants are guilty of price gouging. The consumers are represented by Davis & Norris.

On March 27 California Attorney General Xavier Becerra published a press release reminding manufacturers and wholesalers that they are also included in the price-gouging law for a state of emergency. “During this difficult public health emergency, it’s imperative that we stop price gouging anywhere in the supply chain,” said Becerra.

The plaintiffs say the price of eggs has risen more than 180 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are seeking relief from any of the defendants who marked the price of eggs up more than 10 percent, which they say clearly includes some or all of the named defendants. The class includes consumers who purchased eggs during the state of emergency.

The plaintiffs seek a ruling that defendants engaged in illegal practices, an injunction against the price gouging, and restitution.