Attorney General Bonta warns of illegal price hikes as factory fire quickly spreads in Siskiyou County

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a consumer alert following the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency in Siskiyou County due to the plant fire. The factory fire has burned more than 3,900 acres since it started yesterday in a dangerous fire climate. In today’s alert, Attorney General Bonta reminds all Californians that raising prices during a state of emergency is illegal under Section 396 of the Penal Code.

“As Labor Day weekend approaches, Californians are bracing for brutal temperatures and an increased fire risk,”said Attorney General Bonta. “Already in Siskiyou County, we are seeing a rapidly spreading fire destroying homes and forcing evacuations. It is unacceptable to take advantage of any Californian in these times of crisis. With the recent declaration of a state of emergency in Siskiyou County by the Governor, I want to be crystal clear: price gouging is illegal. If you see businesses raising the prices of essential supplies, please report it to my office or local authorities immediately. »

California law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds the price of an item by more than 10% prior to a declaration of a state or local emergency. For any item that a seller only started selling after a declaration of emergency, the law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds the seller’s cost of the item by more than 50%. 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 cleaning services, certain transportation services, freight and warehousing services, hotel rooms and rental accommodation. Exceptions to this prohibition exist if, for example, the price of labour, goods or materials has increased for the business.

Violators of the predatory pricing law are subject to criminal prosecution which could result in up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Violators are also subject to civil action, including civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation, injunctive relief, and mandatory restitution. The Attorney General and local district attorneys can enforce the law.

For more information on price gouging, please see oag.ca.gov/consumers/pricegougingduringdisasters.