PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With gas prices at an all-time high across the country, Democratic lawmakers are hoping to put an end to price gouging once and for all.
Rep. David Cicilline, alongside Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Jerrold Nadler, Val Demings and Katie Porter, introduced the “Price Gouging Prevention Act” in the U.S. House earlier this week, which would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the state attorneys general the authority to enforce a federal ban against excessive price increases, regardless of the seller’s position in a supply chain.
“As Americans are working to recover from two years of an unprecedented health crisis and the economic downturn it caused, companies are reporting record profits as worker pay remains stagnant and families feel squeezed,” Cicilline said. “This is being driven by corporate greed. We need to stop this now and prevent this egregious behavior from continuing.”
The legislation would prohibit price gouging at the federal level and would require corporations to clearly disclose costs and pricing strategies.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin have introduced similar legislation in the U.S. Senate.
“Prices are rising, and consumers are paying more, while giant corporations are using inflation as a cover to expand their profits,” Warren said. “This bill would crack down on corporate price gouging by setting tougher rules of the road and enhancing enforcement, and I’m going to fight to get this done.”
The legislation is cosponsored by a number of senators, including Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders.
“Massive corporations are exploiting the disruption in the pandemic economy to jack up prices on American consumers. The CEOs and Wall Street investors reap huge paydays while working families get squeezed,” Whitehouse said. “We need to ban the kind of price gouging we’ve seen from Big Oil and other corporate bad actors during this global health crisis, and help Americans afford the basics like groceries and transportation.”
The proposal comes as inflation takes its toll on the wallets of millions of Americans. Over the past year, inflation has soared to the highest its been in four decades nationwide.
Gas and diesel prices continue to break new records both nationally and locally. Earlier this week, AAA reported that the average gas price nationally is about $1.36 higher than it was the same time last year.
So what can people do to protect themselves from price gouging?
Miriam Weizenbaum, chief of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Civil Division, said the most important piece of advice she can offer is to pay attention, especially when it comes to gas prices.
“Are you being charged the advertised price? That’s one thing to look out for,” she said. “Another thing to look out for — is this price significantly different from the other gas station’s around me?”
Weizenbaum said it’s also important for consumers to ask themselves if they’re getting the amount of gas they’ve paid for.
Anyone who believes they’ve fallen victim to price gouging is urged to contact the R.I. Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit. She said when price gouging is reported and a business is caught in the act, they can “make them stop” by imposing fines and seeking backpay for affected customers.
Weizenbaum said these tips also apply to other necessary purchases, such as heating oil. By paying attention and researching prices, Weizenbaum said consumers can save a lot of money.