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Owner of public storage facility to pay $140,000 for price gouging violations

A storage company has been ordered by a Sonoma County judge to pay $140,000 in penalties and costs for violating price gouging restrictions in the wake of the 2017 North Bay wildfires.

PS Orangeco Inc., which owns and operates Public Storage self-storage rental facilities, agreed to the judgment ordered by Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Patrick Broderick, the District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday in a news release. The judgment also includes an injunction that prohibits any future violations.

The complaint against PS Orangeco was a joint action by the district attorney offices in Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.

“This case is part of the ongoing efforts of my office to investigate and prosecute instances of price gouging following the devastating wildfires,” Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in the news release.

California law prohibits raising the price of many goods and services - including food, emergency supplies, rental housing and storage services - by more than 10% of pre-disaster pricing during a declared state of emergency.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown included the measure in his emergency declaration Oct. 9, 2017, a day after the destructive fires sparked in the North Bay. Since then, the measure has been extended several times, and currently remains in effect through Dec. 31.

Prosecutors said PS Orangeco increased rates for its storage facilities by more than 10%, though it wasn’t clear by how much.

The corporation cooperated in the investigation, according to the news release. It has issued full refunds, plus an additional $10 courtesy credit, to all customers affected in the three counties. Any customer who believes they were overcharged and didn’t receive their refund and courtesy credit should contact the corporation or the District Attorney’s Office.

The office has filed several criminal and civil cases against individuals and companies accused of violating price gouging restrictions following the 2017 fires. In May, FG Meadows LLC, the owner of the Meadows at Fountaingrove apartments in Santa Rosa, was ordered by a county judge to pay nearly $60,000 in penalties and restitutions.

You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ChantelleHLee.

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