Washington, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) introduced legislation today 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 current global crisis is sickening and staggering. Frontline workers are putting their lives on the line and people are dying daily. State governments and hospitals throughout the country are being forced to pay excessive prices in an attempt to save those lives and more. That includes the Mayor of Houston, who authorized paying $4 for N95 masks – which normally cost around fifty cents each – and still was unable to obtain the critically needed protective equipment. The Idaho Office of Emergency Management reported that N95 masks were selling for as much as $8 per mask,” Rep. Speier said. “States are also now forced to compete with one another in an attempt to secure supplies. As the Trump Administration continues to blunder its response to the COVID-19 crisis by refusing to adequately invoke the Defense Production Act and our national death toll climbs, it is clear that Congress needs to take action to prevent these unscrupulous con artists in their tracks.”

The Unconscionable Pricing Act would help prevent profiteering by:

  • Protecting local and state government agencies and departments, as well as private and nonprofit organizations during covered emergencies by making it unlawful for any person to charge unconscionable prices for emergency supplies during the covered emergency period.
    • Defining a price as unconscionable if the price of a covered item is increased by ten percent or more during the emergency period.
  • Making it unlawful in a region or state affected by an emergency declaration for any person to impose unconscionable prices for the sale, rental, lease, or procurement of emergency supplies during the covered emergency.
  • Granting the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General authority to enforce these provisions.

The Unconscionable Pricing Act is co-sponsored by Representatives Steve Cohen (TN-9), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), and Grace Meng (NY-6).

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

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