Regulation

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 Nadler (N.Y.), Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) and David Cicilline (R.I.) said in a statement.

“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 Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) separately introduced legislation that would give the FTC more authority to tackle price gouging during emergencies.

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 Trump 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 Barr said.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Coronavirus David Cicilline Donald Trump Jan Schakowsky Jerrold Nadler Price gouging Thom Tillis William Barr

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