Attorney General Bonta Issues Consumer Alert on Price Gouging Following State of Emergency Declaration in El Dorado County Due to Caldor Fire
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a consumer alert following the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency for El Dorado County due to the Caldor Fire, which has burned 6,500 acres, threatening homes and power lines and resulting in the evacuation of thousands of residents. Attorney General Bonta reminds all Californians that price gouging during a state of emergency is illegal under Penal Code Section 396.
“The growing Caldor Fire has prompted evacuation orders throughout El Dorado County. The emergency declaration establishes critical protections for those affected, making it illegal to charge excessive prices for housing, gas, food, and other essential supplies,” said Attorney General Bonta. “If you see price gouging — or if you've been the victim of it — I encourage you to immediately file a complaint with my office online at oag.ca.gov/report, or contact your local police department or sheriff’s office.”
California law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10%, the price a seller charged for an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. For any item a seller only began selling after an emergency declaration, 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 cleanup services, transportation, freight and storage services, hotel accommodations, and rental housing. Exceptions to this prohibition exist if, for example, the price of labor, goods, or materials has increased for the business.
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 $2,500 per violation, injunctive relief, and mandatory restitution. The Attorney General and local district attorneys can enforce the statute.