Price Gouging

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​The following counties are under price gouging protections as a result of a gubernatorial Proclamation or Executive Order:

​County ​Price Gouging in place until:
​Kern ​8/3/2019 and 1/3/20 (for emergency cleanup, repair, or reconstruction)
​San Bernardino
​8/4/2019 andf 1/4/20 (for emergency cleanup, repair, or recunstruction)
​Mendocino ​12/31/2019 (extended via Executive Order N-12-19)
​Napa 12/31/2019 (extended via Executive Order N-12-19)
​Santa Barbara
12/31/2019 (extended via Executive Order N-12-19)​
​Shasta ​12/31/2019 (extended via Executive Order N-12-19)
​Sonoma 12/31/2019 (extended via Executive Order N-12-19)​
​Butte 11/8/2019 (extended via Executive Order B-57-18)​
​Los Angeles
​11/8/2019 (extended via Executive Order B-57-18)
​Ventura 11/8/2019 (extended via Executive Order B-57-18)​

​The following Frequently Asked Questions pertain to Price Gouging protections in California, and can also be found on the California Attorney General's office Price Gouging information page for consumers.

 

 

Can the Attorney General’s office assist me with a claim against someone who price gouged me?Can the Attorney General’s office assist me with a claim against someone who price gouged me?<p>​Our office cannot give you legal advice or represent you. If you believe that you might have a claim for price gouging, you might consider contacting an attorney to explore your options. For referral to a lawyer, you may contact the State Bar at (866) 442-2529 (toll-free in California) or (415) 538-2250 (from outside California), or <a title="California State Bar website" href="http://www.calbar.ca.gov/" target="_blank">through its website</a>. If you cannot afford to pay an attorney, you may consider contacting your local legal aid office. For a referral, visit http://www.lsc.gov and click on the Find Legal Assistance tab, or go to http://lawhelpca.org.<br></p>
How can I find out if a declaration of emergency is in effect?How can I find out if a declaration of emergency is in effect?<p>Emergency declarations issued by the Governor are generally available on the Governor’s website at gov.ca.gov. For information about local declarations of emergency, please contact your local city or county emergency authority or sheriff’s office.​</p>
How does the statute affect rental housing?How does the statute affect rental housing?<p>​As with all other covered goods and services, following a declaration of emergency, the statute generally prohibits landlords from increasing the price of rental housing by more than 10% of the previously charged or advertised price. For rental housing that was not rented or advertised for rent prior to a declaration of emergency, the price cannot exceed 160% of the fair market value of the rental housing as established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.<br><br>For rental housing advertised or rented on a daily basis, the daily price may not be increased by more than 10% following a declaration of emergency. For rental housing advertised or rented on a daily basis prior to a declaration of emergency but offered on a full-time or monthly basis following a declaration of emergency, the price may not exceed 160% of the fair market value of the rental housing as established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.<br><br>A landlord may not justify an otherwise unlawful price increase by providing additional services such as gardening, cleaning, or utilities, or because they are now offering a shorter lease term. Similarly, a landlord may not charge more than the allowable price because an insurance company offered to pay a higher price.<br><br>Finally, the statute also makes it a separate misdemeanor for a landlord to evict a tenant and then re-rent the property at a rate that the landlord would have been prohibited from charging the evicted tenant under the price gouging statute.<br></p>
How long do the restrictions of the statute apply?How long do the restrictions of the statute apply?<p>​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. State and local officials may extend the effective period of the statute beyond these timeframes.<br></p>
Is price gouging illegal in California?Is price gouging illegal in California?<p>​Yes, in certain circumstances. California’s anti-price gouging statute, Penal Code Section 396, prohibits raising the price of many consumer goods and services by more than 10% after an emergency has been declared.<br><br>Local laws may also contain their own prohibitions on price gouging.<br></p>
Should I report price gouging to the Attorney General’s office?Should I report price gouging to the Attorney General’s office?<p>​Even though our office cannot represent individuals, the Attorney General may, on behalf of the public, investigate or prosecute someone who has engaged in price gouging. Anyone who has been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, is encouraged to immediately file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office by going to the Attorney General's website or by calling (800) 952-5225.<br></p>
What are the consequences of violating the statute?What are the consequences of violating the statute?<p>​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. Violations are also subject to civil enforcement actions including civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, injunctive relief and mandatory restitution.<br><br>The Attorney General, local district attorneys, and private individuals can bring actions for violations of the statute.<br></p>
What goods and services are covered by the statute?What goods and services are covered by the statute?<p>​The statute applies to the following major necessities: lodging (including permanent or temporary rental housing, hotels, motels, and mobilehomes); food and drink (including food and drink for animals); emergency supplies such as water, flashlights, radios, batteries, candles, blankets, soaps, diapers, temporary shelters, tape, toiletries, plywood, nails, and hammers; and medical supplies such as prescription and nonprescription medications, bandages, gauze, isopropyl alcohol, and antibacterial products.</p><p><br>It also applies to other goods and services including: home heating oil; building materials, including lumber, construction tools, and windows; transportation; freight; storage services; gasoline and other motor fuels; and repair and reconstruction services. <br></p>
What if I experienced price increases outside of the city or county where the emergency or disaster is occurring or occurred?What if I experienced price increases outside of the city or county where the emergency or disaster is occurring or occurred?<p>​The statute does not restrict its protection to a city or county where the emergency or disaster is located. In addition to applying in the city or county covered by the declaration, it is intended to prevent price gouging elsewhere in the state where there is increased consumer demand as a result of the declared emergency. For example, if a fire in San Diego County causes residents to evacuate to neighboring Imperial County, hotels in Imperial County may not raise rates by more than 10% to take advantage of the increase in demand for lodging.<br></p>
What if a seller increased the price of a good or service because the seller’s costs of providing the good or service increased?What if a seller increased the price of a good or service because the seller’s costs of providing the good or service increased?<p>If the seller can prove that the increased price is directly attributable to increases in the cost of labor or materials needed to provide the good or service, the seller may not be liable under the statute.​</p>
What is price gouging?What is price gouging?<p>Price Gouging refers to sellers trying to take unfair advantage of consumers during an emergency or dissaster by greatly increasing prices for essential consumer goods and services.<br></p>
When does California’s anti-price gouging statute apply?When does California’s anti-price gouging statute apply?<p>​The statute applies immediately after the President of the United States, the Governor of California, or city or county executive officer declares a state of emergency resulting from any natural or manmade disaster, such as an earthquake, flood, fire, riot, or storm.<br></p>
Who is subject to the statute?Who is subject to the statute?<p>Individuals, businesses, and other entities must comply with the statute.​</p>

Penal Code § 396.

States of emergency or local emergencies; unfair advantage of consumers; price controls; housing protections; penalties; definitions; preemption; calculations

(a) The Legislature hereby finds that during a state of emergency or local emergency, including, but not limited to, an earthquake, flood, fire, riot, storm, drought, plant or animal infestation or disease, or other natural or manmade disaster, some merchants have taken unfair advantage of consumers by greatly increasing prices for essential consumer goods and services. While the pricing of consumer goods and services is generally best left to the marketplace under ordinary conditions, when a declared state of emergency or local emergency results in abnormal disruptions of the market, the public interest requires that excessive and unjustified increases in the prices of essential consumer goods and services be prohibited. It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to protect citizens from excessive and unjustified increases in the prices charged during or shortly after a declared state of emergency or local emergency for goods and services that are vital and necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers. Further, it is the intent of the Legislature that this section be liberally construed so that its beneficial purposes may be served.

(b) Upon the proclamation of a state of emergency declared by the President of the United States or the Governor, or upon the declaration of a local emergency by an official, board, or other governing body vested with authority to make that declaration in any county, city, or city and county, and for a period of 30 days following that proclamation or declaration, it is unlawful for a 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, home heating oil, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, and storage services, or gasoline or other motor fuels for a price of more than 10 percent greater than the price charged by that person for those goods or services immediately prior to the proclamation or declaration of emergency. However, a greater price increase is not unlawful if that person can prove that the increase in price was directly attributable to additional costs imposed on it by the supplier of the goods, or directly attributable to additional costs for labor or materials used to provide the services, during the state of emergency or local emergency, and the price is no more than 10 percent greater than the total of the cost to the seller plus the markup customarily applied by the seller for that good or service in the usual course of business immediately prior to the onset of the state of emergency or local emergency.

(c) Upon the proclamation of a state of emergency declared by the President of the United States or the Governor, or upon the declaration of a local emergency by an official, board, or other governing body vested with authority to make that declaration in any county, city, or city and county, and for a period of 180 days following that proclamation or declaration, it is unlawful for a contractor to sell or offer to sell any repair or reconstruction services or any services used in emergency cleanup for a price of more than 10 percent above the price charged by that person for those services immediately prior to the proclamation or declaration of emergency. However, a greater price increase is not unlawful if that person can prove that the increase in price was directly attributable to additional costs imposed on it by the supplier of the goods, or directly attributable to additional costs for labor or materials used to provide the services, during the state of emergency or local emergency, and the price represents no more than 10 percent greater than the total of the cost to the contractor plus the markup customarily applied by the contractor for that good or service in the usual course of business immediately prior to the onset of the state of emergency or local emergency.

(d) Upon the proclamation of a state of emergency declared by the President of the United States or the Governor, or upon the declaration of a local emergency by an official, board, or other governing body vested with authority to make that declaration in any county, city, or city and county, and for a period of 30 days following that proclamation or declaration, it is unlawful for an owner or operator of a hotel or motel to increase the hotel or motel’s regular rates, as advertised immediately prior to the proclamation or declaration of emergency, by more than 10 percent. However, a greater price increase is not unlawful if the owner or operator can prove that the increase in price is directly attributable to additional costs imposed on it for goods or labor used in its business, to seasonal adjustments in rates that are regularly scheduled, or to previously contracted rates.

(e) Upon the proclamation of a state of emergency declared by the President of the United States or the Governor, or upon the declaration of a local emergency by an official, board, or other governing body vested with authority to make that declaration in any city, county, or city and county, and for a period of 30 days following that proclamation or declaration, or any period the proclamation or declaration is extended by the applicable authority, it is unlawful for any person, business, or other entity, to increase the rental price, as defined in paragraph (11) of subdivision (j), advertised, offered, or charged for housing, to an existing or prospective tenant, by more than 10 percent. However, a greater rental price increase is not unlawful if that person can prove that the increase is directly attributable to additional costs for repairs or additions beyond normal maintenance that were amortized over the rental term that caused the rent to be increased greater than 10 percent or that an increase was contractually agreed to by the tenant prior to the proclamation or declaration. It shall not be a defense to a prosecution under this subdivision that an increase in rental price was based on the length of the rental term, the inclusion of additional goods or services, except as provided in paragraph (11) of subdivision (j) with respect to furniture, or that the rent was offered by, or paid by, an insurance company, or other third party, on behalf of a tenant. This subdivision does not authorize a landlord to charge a price greater than the amount authorized by a local rent control ordinance.

(f) It is unlawful for a person, business, or other entity to evict any residential tenant of residential housing after the proclamation of a state of emergency declared by the President of the United States or the Governor, or upon the declaration of a local emergency by an official, board, or other governing body vested with authority to make that declaration in any city, county, or city and county, and for a period of 30 days following that proclamation or declaration, or any period that the proclamation or declaration is extended by the applicable authority and rent or offer to rent to another person at a rental price greater than the evicted tenant could be charged under this section. It shall not be a violation of this subdivision for a person, business, or other entity to continue an eviction process that was lawfully begun prior to the proclamation or declaration of emergency.

(g) The prohibitions of this section may be extended for additional 30-day periods, as needed, by a local legislative body, local official, the Governor, or the Legislature, if deemed necessary to protect the lives, property, or welfare of the citizens.

(h) A violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(i) A violation of this section shall constitute an unlawful business practice and an act of unfair competition within the meaning of Section 17200 of the Business and Professions Code. The remedies and penalties provided by this section are cumulative to each other, the remedies under Section 17200 of the Business and Professions Code, and the remedies or penalties available under all other laws of this state.

(j) For the purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:

(1) “State of emergency” means a natural or manmade emergency resulting from an earthquake, flood, fire, riot, storm, drought, plant or animal infestation or disease, or other natural or manmade disaster for which a state of emergency has been declared by the President of the United States or the Governor.

(2) “Local emergency” means a natural or manmade emergency resulting from an earthquake, flood, fire, riot, storm, drought, plant or animal infestation or disease, or other natural or manmade disaster for which a local emergency has been declared by an official, board, or other governing body vested with authority to make that declaration in any county, city, or city and county in California.

(3) “Consumer food item” means any article that is used or intended for use for food, drink, confection, or condiment by a person or animal.

(4) “Repair or reconstruction services” means services performed by any person who is required to be licensed under the Contractors’ State License Law (Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 7000) of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code), for repairs to residential or commercial property of any type that is damaged as a result of a disaster.

(5) “Emergency supplies” includes, but is not limited to, water, flashlights, radios, batteries, candles, blankets, soaps, diapers, temporary shelters, tape, toiletries, plywood, nails, and hammers.

(6) “Medical supplies” includes, but is not limited to, prescription and nonprescription medications, bandages, gauze, isopropyl alcohol, and antibacterial products.

(7) “Building materials” means lumber, construction tools, windows, and anything else used in the building or rebuilding of property.

(8) “Gasoline” means any fuel used to power any motor vehicle or power tool.

(9) “Transportation, freight, and storage services” means any service that is performed by any company that contracts to move, store, or transport personal or business property or that rents equipment for those purposes, including towing services.

(10) “Housing” means any rental housing with an initial lease term of no longer than one year, including, but not limited to, a space rented in a mobilehome park or campground.

(11) “Rental price” for housing means any of the following:

(A) For housing rented within one year prior to the time of the proclamation or declaration of emergency, the actual rental price paid by the tenant. For housing not rented at the time of the declaration or proclamation, but rented, or offered for rent, within one year prior to the proclamation or declaration of emergency, the most recent rental price offered before the proclamation or declaration of emergency. For housing rented at the time of the proclamation or declaration of emergency but which becomes vacant while the proclamation or declaration of emergency remains in effect and which is subject to any ordinance, rule, regulation, or initiative measure adopted by any local governmental entity that establishes a maximum amount that a landlord may charge a tenant for rent, the actual rental price paid by the previous tenant or the amount specified in subparagraph (B), whichever is greater. This amount may be increased by 5 percent if the housing was previously rented or offered for rent unfurnished, and it is now being offered for rent fully furnished. This amount shall not be adjusted for any other good or service, including, but not limited to, gardening or utilities currently or formerly provided in connection with the lease.

(B) For housing not rented and not offered for rent within one year prior to the proclamation or declaration of emergency, 160 percent of the fair market rent established by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. This amount may be increased by 5 percent if the housing is offered for rent fully furnished. This amount shall not be adjusted for any other good or service, including, but not limited to, gardening or utilities currently or formerly provided in connection with the lease.

(C) Housing advertised, offered, or charged, at a daily rate at the time of the declaration or proclamation of emergency, shall be subject to the rental price described in subparagraph (A), if the housing continues to be advertised, offered, or charged, at a daily rate. Housing advertised, offered, or charged, on a daily basis at the time of the declaration or proclamation of emergency, shall be subject to the rental price in subparagraph (B), if the housing is advertised, offered, or charged, on a periodic lease agreement after the declaration or proclamation of emergency.

(D) For mobilehome spaces rented to existing tenants at the time of the proclamation or declaration of emergency and subject to a local rent control ordinance, the amount authorized under the local rent control ordinance. For new tenants who enter into a rental agreement for a mobilehome space that is subject to rent control but not rented at the time of the proclamation or declaration of emergency, the amount of rent last charged for a space in the same mobilehome park. For mobilehome spaces not subject to a local rent control ordinance and not rented at the time of the proclamation or declaration of emergency, the amount of rent last charged for the space.

(12) “Goods” has the same meaning as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 1689.5 of the Civil Code.

(k) This section does not preempt any local ordinance prohibiting the same or similar conduct or imposing a more severe penalty for the same conduct prohibited by this section.

(l) A business offering an item for sale at a reduced price immediately prior to the proclamation or declaration of the emergency may use the price at which it usually sells the item to calculate the price pursuant to subdivision (b) or (c).

(m) This section does not prohibit an owner from evicting a tenant for any lawful reason, including pursuant to Section 1161 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

 

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