Amid Historic Northern California Wildfires, Attorney General Becerra Issues Alert to California Business Associations on Price Gouging

Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO — Amid historic wildfires, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today called on the California Hotel & Lodging Association, North Bay Association of Realtors, and California Apartment Association to help educate their members about the State’s anti-price gouging statute. 

“As wildfires rage across California, it's vital to broadcast to all that our State’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on housing, gas, food, and other essential supplies,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This is not a matter that I take lightly — the blazes have claimed numerous lives and have displaced thousands throughout our communities. As the state’s top law enforcement officer, I am prepared to prosecute those unscrupulous individuals who try to turn a profit at the expense of our neighbors and friends. I encourage anyone who is aware of price gouging to immediately file a complaint through my office’s website, www.oag.ca.gov, or call (800) 952-5225.” 

Under Penal Code Section 396, it is illegal to charge a price for an item that exceeds, by more than 10 percent, the price of that item before the declaration of a state or local emergency. This law applies to hotel accommodations and rental housing, repair or reconstruction services, emergency cleanup services, transportation, and freight and storage services. The law also applies to those who sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials and gasoline. 

Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Violators are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, injunctive relief and mandatory restitution. The Attorney General and local district attorneys can enforce the statute.

A copy of the letters is attached to the electronic version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov/news.

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