The fires in Sonoma County and elsewhere in the North Bay have displaced many people; in recent days, there have been many conversations within our community about price gouging.
Here is the legal definition of price gouging within California:
“Under Section 396 of the California Penal Code, it is unlawful to sell or offer for sale for a period of 30 days 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 above the price charged by that person for those goods or services immediately prior to the proclamation or declaration of emergency.
“Additionally, 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.”
The full text can be found here: http://bit.ly/2hNEZHH
So far, HPD has received one reported complaint of price gouging in the City of Healdsburg, and that incident was reviewed by both HPD and the DA’s office. The complaint was determined to be unfounded as the business owner was operating within the provisions of 396 PC.
The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office has primary jurisdiction over the investigation of price gouging complaints, and they can be reached at 707-565-2311. If you see a possible incident of price-gouging, residents can also report it directly to the HPD, and our staff will forward the information to the District Attorney’s office for investigation.