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 KlobucharTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Hillicon Valley: Conspiracy theories run rampant online amid Floyd protests | First lawsuit filed against Trump social media order | Snapchat to no longer promote Trump's account 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 SandersBiden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs order removing environmental reviews for major projects | New Trump air rule will limit future pollution regulations, critics say | DNC climate group calls for larger federal investment on climate than Biden plan Google: Chinese and Iranian hackers targeting Biden, Trump campaigns MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Warren, Pressley introduce bill to make it a crime for police officers to deny medical care to people in custody MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Kamala Harris to Trump: 'Keep George Floyd's name out of your mouth' New England Patriots owner pledges M to social justice causes 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 John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters 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 BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBarr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters The failure of the other police officers to stop George Floyd's killing may be the biggest challenge 18 state attorneys general request authority to investigate local police 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.”