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Price gouging protections in effect

Posted at 12:51 PM, Jan 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-10 15:57:35-05

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office shared with the community that price gouging protections of Penal Code Section 396 (PC 396) are currently in effect as a result of the storm that hit all of California.

This code is designed to “protect citizens from excessive and unjustified increases in the prices charged during or shortly after a declared state of emergency."

PC 396 prohibits raising the price of many consumer goods and services by more than 10% in the 30 days following a declaration or proclamation of a State of Emergency.

With regard to construction repair and reconstruction services, these protections are in effect for 180 days following such a declaration or proclamation.

This code applies to any person or business selling or offering to sell a variety of goods and services, including the following:

  • consumer food items
  • goods or services used for emergency cleanup
  • emergency supplies
  • medical supplies
  • building materials
  • housing
  • transportation
  • freight
  • storage services

If you are caught violating PC396, you are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in a 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.

District Attorney John Savrnoch stated, “Local businesses have offered invaluable service and assistance to the community in past times of crisis, and we call on everyone in Santa Barbara County to continue in this tradition."

Savrnoch goes on to say that anyone who takes advantage of the current emergency to engage in price gouging will be prosecuted "to the full extent of the law."

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office asks that anyone who suspects they have been the victim of price-gouging, or who has information regarding potential price-gouging, is encouraged to immediately file a complaint.

They can do so by calling the District Attorney’s Office at 805-568-2300 or by completing a Consumer Complaint Form.

For more information on where price gouging laws are currently in effect, and for how long, please see the California Office of Emergency Serviceswebsite.