LASATA: Cracking down on prices in times of emergency

Published 8:51 am Wednesday, March 18, 2020

We are living in extraordinary times — unprecedented times, in fact.

As we enter this new normal in the age of coronavirus, most people are adjusting and adapting. Most people have taken the advice of our medical professionals and elected leaders and are being smart about our social interactions and are staying home.

The reality of the situation, with the speed with which all of this is happening, and the unknown of how long it is going to go on, is that there are going to be times when we need to go out to resupply. The fear and panic have caused many to bulk purchase essentials, like toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, and sanitizer, leaving many more others searching and out of luck.

While this behavior is unfortunate, even worse has been the price gouging that has followed. The state’s attorney general’s office has fielded dozens of consumer complaints of businesses jacking up the prices of these common essentials.

That is why I am joining a bipartisan effort in the Senate to crack down on price gouging during times of declared emergency, including health crises, weather events and other manmade and natural disasters. The proposed legislation, which I have co-sponsored, would prohibit businesses from raising prices on goods by 10 percent or more of what they would ordinarily cost. I look forward to getting the legislation introduced, passed and signed very quickly.

The governor, too, has taken action against price gougers in an executive order issued over the weekend. Her order prohibits people and businesses from selling products for more than 20 percent higher than normal, and from reselling items purchased from a retailer at grossly higher prices.

While the governor’s order is in effect through April 13, our proposed legislation would put these strict price gouging protections into law.

In times of crisis, perhaps more than ever, it is important that each of us to does our part to be responsible members of the community and to help each other when possible.

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Stay safe.