Extortion is a statutory offense, in Germany stated in sect. 291 of the criminal code. Since the second world war, extortion could mainly be applied to loans or rent agreements.
Currently, extortion could become important when dealing with medical equipment, particularly sanitary masks.
While toilet paper has much been discussed in the news, the price for toilet paper does not seem to have risen in extortion-like spheres (more than 100% increase). Sanitary masks however are being traded at more than 1000% increase of the purchase price.
According to Sect. 291 para.1 German criminal code is to be punished, who exploits the exigence of someone else in order to gain disproportionate monetary advantages.
An exigence as required by extortion may be of economic or non-economic nature. It is important that it limits the free decision making of the victim.
This is currently the case when applied to sanitary masks. All people are recommended to carry sanitary masks in public. While this may not prevent the individual from getting infected, it does prevent the individual from – unintentionally – infecting others.
Therefore, many people have the need to purchase sanitary masks, even if there is no law yet from leaving home without a mask. The free decision making is restricted. People are therefore ready to pay “extortion-like” – prices for masks.
In civil law in Germany, extortion is stipulated in Section 138 para. 2 Civil Code. A transaction based on extortion is void. The victim may reclaim the whole price from the culprit, whereas the culprit may only claim the objective value of the mask from the victim.