Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey reminded the public today that provisions of California’s Anti-Gouging statute are now effective with the Camp Fire emergency declaration on Thursday, November 8.
Ramsey said Penal Code section 396 prevents persons from increasing more than 10% the cost of goods, services or rents from the prices before the fire. It is unlawful for any person, contractor, business, or other entity to sell or offer to sell any consumer food items or goods, goods or services used for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, and storage services, or gasoline or other motor fuels for a price of more than 10 percent above the price charged by that person for those goods or services immediately prior to the declaration of Camp Fire emergency.
Ramsey said he sent investigators out Saturday to warn hotels, motels and gas stations of the provisions of the anti-gouging statute. Violations of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in 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 $5,000 per violation, injunctive relief and mandatory restitution.
Ramsey said the statute generally applies for 30 days after a declaration of emergency, although for reconstruction services and emergency cleanup services, it applies for 180 days after a declaration of emergency. The Butte County Board of Supervisors may extend the effective period of the statute beyond these timeframes.
Ramsey encouraged citizens who believe there has been a violation of the anti-gouging statute to call the Butte County District Attorney’s Fraud Tip Line at 1-866-DA-FRAUD (1-866-323-7283).