Multiple fires are raging in Southern California. A series of Santa Ana wind-driven wildfires have destroyed hundreds of structures, forced thousands to flee and smothered the region with smoke in what officials predicted would be a pitched battle for days.
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Jacking up prices for essentials during a state of emergency is illegal, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra reminded Californians as wildfires continued to burn this week.
“As our brave firefighters are working to contain the blazes and as many Californians are being evacuated, it should not be open season on innocent victims,” Becerra said in a statement Wednesday. “Our state’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on housing, gas, food and other essential supplies.”
California law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10%, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. (There are some exceptions, including a significant increase in the price of labor or materials for the business.) Those who violate the law could face one year of imprisonment, and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Becerra asked anyone who believes they’ve been a victim of price gouging to file a complaint through his website or by calling (800) 952-5225 or contacting local law enforcement.
“For any in the community who would give in to the temptation to benefit from others’ misfortune, we will take price gouging very seriously and will act to ensure it is not profitable,” Ventura County Dist. Atty. Gregory Totten said in the statement.