Attorney General Bonta Issues Consumer Alert on Price Gouging
(February 5, 2024) Following each gubernatorial declaration of a state of emergency, the California Attorney General issues a consumer alert reminding sellers of price gouging laws pertaining to food, housing, gasoline and certain emergency supplies, as outlined below.
(Update - February 6, 2024): Due to additional storms and flooding, the Governor has declared emergencies in additional counties. This means anti-price gouging rules are now in effect for rental housing providers in Orange and Riverside Counties, triggering a 10% rent cap. Visit the Office of Emergency Services website for more information on specific declarations and their end dates.
Attorney General Bonta Issues Consumer Alert on Price Gouging Following State of Emergency Declaration in Southern California in Light of Powerful Winter Storm
Monday, February 5, 2024
Contact: (916) 210-6000, firstname.lastname@example.org
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a consumer alert following the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency for several counties in Southern California as a series of winter storms began impacting much of the state with high winds, damaging rain, and heavy snowfall. The proclamation covers Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. Attorney General Bonta reminds all Californians that price gouging during a state of emergency is illegal under Penal Code Section 396.
“As this dangerous storm hits our state, I urge Californians to stay safe, care for their neighbors, and listen to guidance from state and local officials — especially when traveling. Our State’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on 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.
Attorney General Bonta Issues Consumer Alert on Price Gouging Following State of Emergency Declaration in Southern California in Light of Powerful Winter Storm | State of California - Department of Justice - Office of the Attorney General