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Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging

Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging
© Bonnie Cash

A group of 17 Democratic Senators sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Friday urging it to do more to combat price gouging amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter calls on the agency to use its authority to prevent “unfair or deceptive acts or practices," the lawmakers say should include inflating prices when consumers desperately need health products.

"[W]e have been seeing in numerous reports of unscrupulous vendors taking advantage of this national emergency by charging wildly inflated prices for once-affordable consumer products," the lawmakers, led by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocrats scramble to unify before election bill brawl Hillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC MORE (D-Minn.), wrote to FTC chairman Joseph Simons. "Such price gouging does not just enrich sellers at the expense of desperate consumers, it may prevent low income consumers from obtaining these products altogether."

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The letter, which was also signed by Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Democrats have turned solidly against gas tax Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe U.S. and Mexico must revamp institutions supporting their joint efforts Harris signals a potential breakthrough in US-Mexico cooperation Watch live: Harris delivers remarks on vaccination efforts MORE (D-Calif.), follows multiple reports of essential products like hand sanitizer and face masks selling at substantially increased prices on online retail sites.

Several retailers have taken steps to address the issue, as have government entities.

Simons issued a statement Thursday detailing how the FTC is working to protect consumers during the pandemic.

“We will not tolerate businesses seeking to take advantage of consumers’ concerns and fears regarding coronavirus disease, exigent circumstances, or financial distress,” the chairman said, underscoring that his agency is working with enforcement authorities and stakeholders to stop deceptive business practices.

President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE on Monday signed an executive order aimed at preventing price gouging and hoarding of critical medical supplies. The order would allow the Department of Justice to apply criminal penalties if supplies deemed critical are hoarded, Attorney General William BarrBill BarrLieu calls Catholic bishops 'hypocrites' for move to deny Biden communion The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Senate Judiciary Democrats demand DOJ turn over Trump obstruction memo MORE explained.

Another group of Democratic senators introduced a bill Wednesday prohibiting selling, or offering to sell, essential items at excessive — defined as 20 percent above normal — prices during crises.

“The coronavirus pandemic has put incredible stress on consumers and we must make sure that they can afford essential goods and services,” Klobuchar said in a statement on that bill. “All consumers should have access to the products and services they need to protect their families at fair, uninflated prices.”