Santa Rosa, CA – November 1, 2019 – District Attorney Jill
Ravitch today issued a consumer alert reminding businesses, including hotels
and landlords, that price gouging is prohibited under Penal Code Section 396 during
the state of emergency resulting from the devastating wildfires that have swept
through Sonoma County and the North Bay. District Attorney Ravitch stated that
her office has, and will continue to, 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) 565-5317.”
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
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 alleged price gouging.