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House Dems introduce anti-price gouging legislation

House Dems introduce anti-price gouging legislation
© Greg Nash

A group of four powerful House Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation aimed at curbing price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 Price Gouging Prevention Act would prohibit the sale of goods and services during the current public health emergency at "grossly" higher levels than before it.

“It’s outrageous that some companies and individuals are taking advantage of American consumers by price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic," Democratic Reps. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Democrats accuse GSA of undermining national security by not certifying Biden win MORE (N.Y.), Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyFeinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Pelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair MORE (Ill.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats MORE (R.I.) said in a statement.

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"Goods and services such as hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, and many other items would be covered by this bill because every American deserves access to these essential goods at a reasonable price."

Nadler and Pallone chair the House Judiciary and the House Energy and Commerce committees, respectively, while Schakowsky and Cicilline both lead subpanels on anti-trust laws and consumer protection.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general would be given more enforcement tools under the new legislation.

Spiking prices for essential goods during the spread of coronavirus has been a persistent issue, and several actors have tried to curb it.

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (D-Minn.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisNorth Carolina — still purple but up for grabs Team Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection MORE (R-N.C.) separately introduced legislation that would give the FTC more authority to tackle price gouging during emergencies.

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House Democrats tried to include similar language in last month's coronavirus stimulus package but were ultimately unsuccessful.

The FTC has said it has been working with enforcement authorities and stakeholders to stop deceptive business practices.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE last month signed an executive order aimed at preventing price gouging and hoarding of critical medical supplies. It would allow the Department of Justice to apply criminal penalties if supplies deemed critical are hoarded, Attorney General William BarrBill BarrNew DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day MORE said.