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Friday, December 14 , 2018, 4:46 pm | A Few Clouds 62º


Brown Extends Price Gouging Penalty Period Relative to Local Disasters

Gov. Jerry Brown has extended the emergency period applicable to the crime of price gouging to Dec. 4, District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced Monday.

As related to the Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flows, Brown declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County on Dec. 5, 2017, and again on Jan. 8, 2018.

California law generally prohibits businesses and individuals from raising prices for 30 days after an emergency declaration. Due to the ongoing effects of these disasters though, Brown issued an executive order extending the emergency period to Dec. 4, 2018.

Under Penal Code section 396, it is illegal to charge a price for essential goods and services that is more than 10 percent higher than the price charged immediately before the emergency declaration. If a business does so, it could be guilty of the crime commonly known as price gouging.

The statute applies to hotels/motels, consumer food items, goods or services used for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, contractor’s services, building materials, housing, transportation (including towing services), freight, storage services, gasoline and other motor fuels.

Price gouging is subject to criminal prosecution and carries a penalty of up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Violators may also face civil enforcement actions and penalties.

“Amongst the most generous members of our communities have always been our local businesses who have historically shown great compassion for those affected by disastersm” Dudley said.

She cautioned, however, “If any predator business criminally misuses this disaster for its own benefit, we will prosecute to the full extent of the law.”

— Debbie Fox for Santa Barbara County District Attorney.


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