Scammers Warned Not to Price Gouge Consumers During Wildfires

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Photo credit: Alexander Nguyen

District Attorney Summer Stephan Friday issued a warning to businesses and scammers not to take advantage of consumers by price gouging during San Diego County’s state of emergency caused by raging wildfires.

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During a declared state of emergency, it is illegal for a business to increase prices for essential goods and services by more than 10 percent, unless it can show its own costs have increased.

“Price gouging during a state of emergency is not only a crime, it is re-victimizing victims who may have lost everything in a wildfire,” Stephan said. “Natural disasters are already devastating, so when businesses and scammers exploit consumers when they are vulnerable, law enforcement will not tolerate it.”

It is against the law to spike prices on:

— food;

— goods or services used for emergency cleanup;

— medical supplies;

— home heating oil;

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— building materials;

— housing;

— transportation; and

— gasoline.

In addition, it is a misdemeanor for a hotel or motel to increase regular rates by more than 10 percent during a declared emergency and for the 30 days following the state of emergency. Looting during this time becomes a felony, punishable by three years in prison.

Stephan said anyone should be extremely cautious if approached by aggressive agents, adjusters or contractors after a disaster. She said most businesses are honest and have good intentions, but there are always bad actors waiting to take advantage of disaster victims.

—City News Service

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