Washington, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) today introduced legislation to protect against price gouging during national emergencies. The Unconscionable Pricing Act will ensure that state governments and private and non-profit businesses attempting to purchase personal protective equipment and other necessary supplies aren’t subject to the mercy of profiteers by preventing sellers from raising prices of covered items by ten percent or more during emergency declarations. While most states have anti-price gouging laws that are activated during emergencies, most of those laws only apply to the sale of consumer goods and purchases, not to purchases by states or private and nonprofit businesses.

“The number of profiteers who have crawled out of the woodwork to take advantage of the pandemic has been sickening and staggering. As frontline workers continue to risk their lives and the death toll continues to soar, state governments and hospitals throughout the U.S. have been forced to pay exorbitant prices for PPE and compete with one another for supplies. New York state had to pay twenty cents for gloves that normally cost less than five cents. Illinois recently purchased 200 ventilators at $65,000 a pop, at least $25,000 above the ticket price before the COVID outbreak,” Rep. Speier said. “As the country continues to reel from the extensive failures of the previous administration in its bungled response to the COVID-19 crisis, it’s clear that Congress must take action to stop unscrupulous con artists from wreaking further havoc and endangering more lives.”

The legislation is co-sponsored by Representatives André Carson (IN-07), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), and Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05).  

The legislation is endorsed by Public Citizen.

“Price gouging during an emergency is an unacceptable abuse of market power that takes advantage of the most vulnerable, at a time when they have no ability to protect themselves. Corporations ripping off government agencies responding to an emergency is one of the most egregious instances of price gouging. It is way past time to have a national price gouging law and one that prevents exactly this type of exploitive behavior. We applaud this first step toward outlawing all types of price gouging outright,” said Alex Harman, Competition Policy Advocate, Public Citizen.

A copy of the bill is attached to this press release.

 

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