Call Kurtis Investigates: Know California’s Rules About Price Gouging During State Of Emergency

4:50 p.m. UPDATE: After the Call Kurtis team reached out to his office, Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a statement warning about price gouging:

“California’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on gas, food, housing, and other essential supplies,” said Attorney General Becerra. “I urge hotels, gas stations, and other businesses operating in and around the evacuation area to understand and comply with the law, and I encourage anyone who has information regarding illegal price gouging to report it to our office.”

CHICO (CBS13) — A family of eight evacuated from Thermalito says after staying at a motel in Chico on Sunday night, they were told they had to get out the next morning for someone who was paying significantly more for the same rooms.

They say they were told on Monday morning that they had to get out, claiming someone else paid $158 for the same rooms they paid $99 for the night before.

“We reserved two rooms side-by-side last night,” Amy Linares said. “They told us at 8 this morning they sold the rooms and we had to leave, checkout is at 11.”

It left them with nowhere to go, so they are now staying at the evacuation center at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds.

A worker at the motel denied any gouging and claimed the family only had the room reserved for one night, although the family claims they told the motel workers they planned to stay longer. That same motel worker claimed they reserve the right to raise prices. While that’s true, CBS13 has learned the amount they can raise rates is limited when the governor declares a state of emergency as Jerry Brown did Sunday night. The full text of his declaration is at the end of the story.

The state’s price gouging law, under penal code 396,  states,

“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 by more than 10 percent.”

State Sen. Jim Nielsen (R) Gerber visited with evacuees and spoke with CBS13 about reports of gouging.

“Profiteering is not okay,” he said. “If anything they should be trimming bucks off it, instead of adding to…Stop this deplorable act. This is not what people need at a time of great need for them.”

The question now is who will enforce the law. Nielsen says he’s looking into it. Every state official we spoke with directed us to the Attorney General’s Office, which did not comment other than saying, “Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, the AG’s schedule is tight today, and we will not be able to accommodate this interview request.”

PROCLAMATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY

WHEREAS during January and February of 2017, three atmospheric river storm systems struck California, bringing massive amounts of rainfall; and

WHEREAS this rainfall inundated lakes, rivers, and streams throughout the state, causing them to reach capacity, resulting in widespread flooding; and

WHEREAS Lake Oroville in Butte County reached capacity, causing officials to utilize the spillway to reduce the lake’s water levels; and

WHEREAS on February 7, 2017, the spillway at Lake Oroville Dam began to erode, causing officials to begin utilizing the auxiliary emergency spillway on February 11; and

WHEREAS officials have determined that the auxiliary emergency spillway at Lake Oroville Dam is in danger of failing, which if it fails, may cause widespread and severe flooding; and

WHEREAS the potential for flooding has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents; and

WHEREAS the circumstances of this potential flooding by reason of its magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat; and

WHEREAS under the provisions of section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist in Butte, Sutter, and Yuba Counties due to this potential flooding; and

WHEREAS under the provisions of section 8571 of the California Government Code, I find that strict compliance with various statutes and regulations specified in this order would prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of this potential flooding.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the State Constitution and statutes, including the California Emergency Services Act, and in particular, section 8625 of the California Government Code,

HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist in the Counties of Butte, Sutter, and Yuba.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1. All citizens should heed the advice of emergency officials with regard to this emergency in order to protect their safety.

2. All agencies of the state government utilize and employ state personnel, equipment, and facilities for the performance of any and all activities consistent with the direction of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the State Emergency Plan.

3. As necessary to assist local governments and for the protection of public health and the environment, state agencies shall enter into contracts to arrange for the procurement of materials, goods, and services necessary to quickly remove dangerous debris, repair damaged resources, and restore and protect the impacted watershed. Applicable provisions of the Government Code and the Public Contract Code, including but not limited to travel, advertising, and competitive bidding requirements, are suspended to the extent necessary to address the effects of this flooding.

4. The California National Guard shall mobilize under California Military and Veterans Code section 146 to support disaster response and relief efforts and coordinate with all relevant state agencies, including the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and all relevant state and local emergency responders and law enforcement within the impacted areas. Pursuant to section 147 of the California Military and Veterans Code, any and all provisions of Division 2 of the Military and Veterans Code or other laws of the State which require advertisement for bids for purchases of supplies or employment of services are suspended to the extent necessary to address the effects of this flooding.

5. In order to expedite response and recovery, Division 13 (commencing with section 21000) of the Public Resources Code and regulations adopted pursuant to that Division are hereby suspended.

6. The Office of Emergency Services shall provide assistance to Butte, Sutter and Yuba Counties, as appropriate, under the authority of the California Disaster Assistance Act, California Government Code section 8680 et seq. and California Code of Regulations, title 19, section 2900 et seq.
I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this proclamation be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given of this proclamation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 12th day of February 2017.

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