SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Sunday issued a consumer warning against price gouging in the wake of the state’s wildfires, including the Kincade fire in Sonoma County.
Becerra noted that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s declaration of a statewide emergency Sunday triggers a state law that makes it a crime to raise prices by more than 10 percent during a state or locally declared emergency.
The price gouging law applies to businesses that sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, gasoline and other items at prices more than 10 percent greater than the previous cost. It also applies to hotel accommodations and rental housing.
Violators of the law can be criminally prosecuted and be sentenced to up to one year in jail or fined $10,000 upon conviction. The law also allows civil enforcement actions that can result in civil penalties of $5,000 per violation, injunctions and restitution orders.
“Families in California are in the midst of dealing with devastating wildfires. They shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’re being illegally cheated out of fair prices,” Becerra said in a statement.
He urged people who believe they have experienced price gouging to contact their local police or sheriff’s departments, or the attorney general’s office either at (800) 952-5225 or through its website at oag.ca.gov.
Both the attorney general and local district attorneys can enforce the law, which also applies to repair or reconstruction services, emergency cleanup services, transportation and freight and storage services. It allows exceptions to the 10 percent increase limit when the price of labor, goods or materials has increased for the business during the emergency.
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