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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 NadlerHouse to consider anti-Asian hate crimes bill, protections for pregnant workers this month A historic moment to truly honor mothers Britney Spears to discuss conservatorship in court MORE (N.Y.), Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyBattle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers Overnight Health Care: Biden sets goal of at least one shot to 70 percent of adults by July 4 | White House to shift how it distributes unallocated vaccines to states Pressure builds for Biden to back vaccine patent waivers MORE (Ill.) and David CicillineDavid CicillineRepublicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Washington keeps close eye as Apple antitrust fight goes to court Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube execs to testify at Senate hearing on algorithms | Five big players to watch in Big Tech's antitrust fight 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 KlobucharStrengthen CBP regulations to reduce opioid deaths Why isn't Washington defending American companies from foreign assaults? Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld MORE (D-Minn.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate hears from Biden's high-profile judicial nominees for first time Senate Democrats take aim at 'true lender' interest rate rule Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign 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 TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing 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 BarrDemocrats, activists blast Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE said.