Warning issued over price-gouging in fire-stricken areas

A price-gouging alert was issued Monday by the California attorney general to remind residents and business owners that California law prohibits price gouging during a state of emergency, the attorney general’s office said.

Gov. Jerry Brown Monday issued a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties as wildfires have devastated communities in the counties.

Across Northern California 14 fires have destroyed at least 1,500 homes, most of which are in the three counties, Cal Fire officials said.

No details have been released on any injuries or deaths in the fires.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra is asking anyone who has been a victim of price gouging or who has information of potential price gouging to file a complaint on the attorney general’s website, call (800) 952-5225 or call their police department or sheriff’s office.

California’s price-gouging law prohibits many different businesses from charging more than 10 percent than they were before the state or local emergency was declared.

The attorney general’s office said an exception exists if the business’s cost of labor, goods or materials has increased.

California’s price-gouging law applies to businesses that sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, gas, reconstruction services, emergency cleanup services, transportation, freight and storage services, hotel rooms and rental housing.

Violators can be criminally prosecuted and could face up to a year in the county jail or a fine of up to $10,000.

The attorney general’s office said violators also face civil enforcement action including penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, injunctive relief and restitution.

District attorneys and the attorney general’s office can enforce the price-gouging law.

Officials with the attorney general’s office were not immediately available to say whether anyone had reported price gouging Monday.