California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today issued a consumer alert concerning price gouging in the wake of the Oroville Dam Auxiliary Spillway Incident and related evacuations.
The Attorney General also warns donors to carefully vet anyone who is promising to help evacuees. The Attorney General’s website provides valuable donor tips. https://oag.ca.gov/donations
“California’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on gas, food, housing, and other essential supplies,” said Attorney General Becerra. “I urge hotels, gas stations, and other businesses operating in and around the evacuation area to understand and comply with the law, and I encourage anyone who has information regarding illegal price gouging to report it to our office.”
California’s anti-price gouging statute, Penal Code Section 396, becomes effective immediately after the Governor or a local official declares a state of emergency. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency related to the dam auxiliary spillway incident on February 12, and the area is also subject to a storm-related disaster declaration that was issued in January.
California law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10%, the price of an item before the declaration of emergency. This law applies to those who sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, and gasoline. The law also applies to repair or reconstruction services, emergency cleanup services, transportation, freight and storage services, hotel accommodations, and rental housing. There are limited exceptions to the law.
Businesses violating the price gouging law are subject to criminal prosecution, and the imposition of civil penalties, injunctive relief and restitution. The Attorney General and local district attorneys can enforce the law.
Anyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, is encouraged to immediately file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by going to www.ag.ca.gov or by calling (800) 952-5225.