In a statement last week, Colusa County District Attorney warned Colusa County residents and refugees from neighboring counties to “beware of unscrupulous individuals who attempt to profit from the recent wildifres by engaging in illegal price gouging.”
“My office has started receiving complaints regarding local price gouging and we have begun to investigate those complaints,” Beauchamp said.
According to the statement, California law generally prohibits businesses and individuals from raising prices for 30 days after an emergency declaration. On July 28, both President Donald Trump and Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency relating to the Mendocino Complex fire, the Carr Fire, and other California fires. Under California 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, a practice commonly known as price gouging.
The law applies to hotels and motels, consumer food items, goods or services used for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, storage services, gasoline, and other motor fuels. Under the law, 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 of up to $5,000 per violation, plus mandatory restitution.
“Colusa County businesses historically have shown great restraint and true compassion for those affected by disasters,” Beauchamp said in the statement. “For any who would give in to the temptation to benefit from others’ misfortune, we will take price gouging very seriously and will act to ensure these activities are not profitable.”
Suspected price gouging can be reported to the Colusa County District Attorney’s Office by calling Chief Investigator Dave Salm at (530) 458-0545.