With several dangerous fires burning around Los Angeles, state and local law enforcement officials issued a consumer alert Wednesday, warning residents to be on the lookout for instances of price gouging.
"Price gouging during a public emergency isn't just outrageous, it's illegal," Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said. "Consumers should be very wary of price spikes for hotel rooms, gasoline and emergency items like generators. If you suspect price gouging, report it to my office immediately. When appropriate we will prosecute."
District Attorney Jackie Lacey and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra also issued similar warnings.
Feuer's office reminded residents that when a local state of emergency has been declared, for 30 days following such a declaration it is unlawful for a person or business to sell or offer any consumer food, goods or services used for emergencies that is more than 10 percent higher than the price charged immediately prior to the declaration.
The list includes items for clean-up, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, storage services or gasoline. Hotels and motels are also prohibited from charging prices that are more than 10 percent higher than rates they advertised immediately prior to the declared state of emergency.
Officials also said that for a period of 180 days after the declaration, it is also unlawful for a contractor to sell or offer to sell any repair or reconstruction services or emergency clean-up services for more than 10 percent higher than they charged immediately prior to the declaration, although there are exceptions.
Price-gouging laws apply in California after the president of the United States, governor or city or county executive officer declares a state of emergency.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a local state of emergency Wednesday in response to the Skirball Fire burning in the Bel Air area, requesting state and federal assistance. He also signed an emergency declaration Tuesday due to the Creek Fire near Sylmar. Gov. Jerry Brown also declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County Tuesday in response to the various fires burning in the area.
Feuer said anyone who is the victim of price gouging or who has information about it occurring in Los Angeles can file a complaint at the city attorney's office or call (213) 978-8340.