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Released by: District Attorney
For Immediate Release

District Attorney Ravitch Issues Consumer Alert Regarding Reports of Price Gouging

Santa Rosa, CA  –  October 17, 2017  –  District Attorney Jill Ravitch today issued a consumer alert on reports of price gouging by businesses, including hotels and landlords, during the devastating wildfires that have swept through Sonoma County and the North Bay. District Attorney Ravitch reminds all Sonoma County residents and businesses that price gouging during a state of emergency is illegal under Penal Code Section 396, and her office will investigate and prosecute those that attempt to wrongfully profit from the destructive fires.

“California’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on gas, food, housing, and other essential supplies,” said District Attorney Ravitch. “I urge hotels, gas stations, landlords, and other businesses operating in and around Sonoma County to understand and comply with the law, and I encourage anyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, to immediately file a complaint through my Office’s website at http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/District-Attorney/, or by calling (707) 565-2311.”

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. 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. Limited exceptions to this prohibition exist if, for example, the price of labor, goods, or materials has increased for the business.

An investigation conducted over the last two days by District Attorney Investigators of numerous hotels between Santa Rosa and Petaluma produced positive information. It revealed that those hotels were currently complying with the law, and being accommodating to displaced victims. Additionally, an investigation into a complaint regarding the price of bottled water determined that while one business was charging a higher price than a neighboring business, there was no violation of the statute. District Attorney Ravitch reminds residents of their right to frequent local businesses who are being especially sensitive to the needs of our citizens.

Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Violators are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, injunctive relief and mandatory restitution. The District Attorney and the Attorney General can enforce the statute. 

It would be most helpful if victims or witnesses could provide the District Attorney’s Office with emails, pictures, or other documentation related to the price gouging.


Contact Information

Joan Croft
Media Coordinator
Office of the District Attorney
County of Sonoma
Contact us by Phone
600 Administration Drive
Room 212 J
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
38.466524, -122.726273