Price gouging

Attorney General Becerra Issues Consumer Alert on Price Gouging During California's Wildfires

California law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10 percent, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency.

In this Sept. 7, 2020, file photo, a firefighter works the line as flames push towards homes during the Creek fire in the Cascadel Woods area of unincorporated Madera County, California.
Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

A consumer alert on price gouging was issued by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Wednesday following the governor's Sept. 6 state of emergency declaration for several counties afflicted by wildfires including San Bernardino County.

“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,” said Becerra in a statement released by his office.

The El Dorado Fire burning in Yucaipa has scorched over 11,400 acres as of Wednesday afternoon and is 19% contained as new evacuations are expanded.

The order also covers the counties of Fresno, Madera and Mariposa due to the Creek Fire, and San Diego battling the Valley Fire.

“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,” Becerra added.

State law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds the price of an item before a state or local emergency is declared by 10%. It also applies to those who sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, and gasoline.

The law is also applicable to those in repair or reconstruction services, emergency cleanup services, transportation, freight and storage services, hotel accommodations, and rental housing.

Those caught engaging in price gouging face criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000, and are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation, injunctive relief, and mandatory restitution.

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