Following a declaration of a state of emergency amid winter storms, California Attorney General Rob Bonta has issued a warning about price-gouging for products and services including self-storage. This activity is illegal under Penal Code Section 396, according to a legislative update issued last week by the California Self Storage Association (CSSA).
“I’d like to remind businesses that price-gouging protections are now in full effect and, as such, [they] cannot take advantage of the current demand for essential supplies,” Bonta stated. He also encouraged consumers to report any incidents of price-gouging to the local authorities or his office.
During a state of emergency, businesses are prohibited from raising their prices by more than 10%. In addition, products or services being sold after an emergency has been declared can’t exceed the seller’s cost by more than 50%. It applies to sellers of food, emergency and medical supplies, building materials, and gas. Companies that offer emergency-cleanup services, repair or reconstruction, certain transportation services, freight and storage services, hotel accommodations, and rental housing must also comply. There are some exceptions such as if the price of goods, labor or materials have increased for the business, the CSSA reported.
Violators are subject to criminal prosecution that might include a year in county jail and a fine up to $10,000. In addition, businesses could face civil-enforcement actions carrying penalties up to $2,500 per violation, injunctive relief and mandatory restitution.
California counties that have been impacted by recent storms include Amador, Kern, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Nevada, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Sierra, Sonoma and Tulare.
“From highway closures to power outages and evacuations, the latest series of storms have had critical implications on California residents and its infrastructure,” Bonta said. “While the state is working around the clock to provide relief to those impacted by the storms, it's imperative that Californians stay alert by taking the appropriate measures to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
CSSA is a nonprofit trade association dedicated to supporting the self-storage industry in California. The group offers educational events, networking opportunities, legislative advocacy and more.