As the Valley Fire burned for a fifth straight day, blackening thousands of acres in rural eastern San Diego County, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a consumer alert Wednesday warning that charging excessive prices for goods and services is illegal during a state of emergency.
The state’s price gouging law holds that it is unlawful to raise the price of items more than 10% after a state of emergency has been declared.
Violations of the price gouging statute could carry penalties of up to one year in county jail and/or a $10,000 fine. Civil enforcement actions could also include up to $2,500 per violation and other monetary penalties.
As of midday Wednesday, the Valley Fire had burned more than 17,000 acres and was 11% contained. It was one of many blazes ravaging the state, including the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County and the Creek Fire in Fresno, Madera and Mariposa counties.
“Multiple fires burning throughout the state have forced evacuations for thousands of California residents. During this difficult time, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’re being illegally cheated out of fair prices,” Becerra said.
“Our state’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on housing, gas, food and other essential supplies. I encourage anyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, to immediately file a complaint with our office online at oag.ca.gov/report, or to contact their local police department or sheriff’s office.”
The Attorney General’s Office said the law applies to those who sell emergency supplies like food, medical supplies, building materials, and gasoline, as well as emergency services like repair or reconstruction, cleanup, transportation, freight and storage services, hotel accommodations, and rental housing. However, exceptions to the statute do exist, such as if the price of labor, goods, or materials has increased for the business.
— City News Service