April 10, 2020

Harris, Warren Announce Bill to Stop Price Gouging During the COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. US. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Friday joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in announcing their plan to introduce the Senate companion to the Price Gouging Prevention Act, legislation that would prohibit price gouging of consumer goods throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergencies. The legislation was first introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Joe Neguse (D-CO-02) and Ted Lieu (D-CA-33).

"No one should exploit people who are suffering," said Senator Harris. "Price gouging on household necessities is shameful and adds unnecessary stress for families that are just trying to get by. During my time as Attorney General, I fought price gouging during wildfires, and I'm proud today to help introduce the Senate version of a bill to make it illegal nationwide."

"We can't allow American families -- who are already struggling to make ends meet during this public health emergency -- to be squeezed even further by companies out to make a quick buck," said Senator Warren. "This bill would protect consumers now and during any future crisis by setting tougher rules of the road and enhancing enforcement against predatory price gouging -- and it needs to be included in Congress's next relief package."

The outbreak of COVID-19 throughout the United States has led to a surge in demand for-and shortage of-many essential consumer products, including hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. While several retailers have taken steps to maintain access to these products, there have been numerous reports of merchants, large and small, taking advantage of the current crisis to prey on consumers by charging outrageous prices for what are usually affordable household staples.

The Price Gouging Prevention Act would prohibit such practices during the current public health emergency-as well as future national emergencies-by directing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce a ban on any excessive or opportunistic price increases. The legislation provides that any price increase above 10% will be presumed to be price gouging. It also gives the FTC strong authority to enforce the ban, and gives states flexibility to enforce federal law and enact their own laws to crack down on price gouging.