Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer today issued a Consumer Alert warning Angelenos to be on the lookout for instances of price gouging during the Skirball and Creek fires and to report any instances of it to his office for possible prosecution.
"Consumers should be very wary of price spikes for hotel rooms, gasoline and emergency items like generators," said Feuer. "If you suspect price gouging, report it to my office immediately. When appropriate, we will prosecute."
Price gouging is illegal whenever a local state of emergency has been declared. For 30 days following such a declaration, it is unlawful for a person or business to sell or offer any consumer food, goods or services used for emergency clean-up, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, storage services, or gasoline at a price that is more than 10% higher than the price charged by that person for those goods or services immediately prior to the declaration. Hotels and motels are also prohibited from charging prices that are more than 10% higher than rates they advertised immediately prior to the declared state of emergency.
For a period of 180 days after the declaration, it is also unlawful for a contractor to sell or offer to sell any repair or reconstruction services or emergency clean-up services for more than 10% higher than they charged immediately prior to the declaration. Exceptions to these prohibitions exist if, for example, the person or business can prove that the price increase is directly attributed to additional costs imposed on it for labor, goods or materials.
The L.A. City Attorney can criminally prosecute violators of California’s price gouging statute. Violators can be sentenced up to one year of imprisonment in county jail and/or fined 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.