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Smith Introduces Bill to Protect Missouri Consumers

Legislation Targets Price Gouging During Emergencies

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Washington, March 13, 2020 | comments

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) introduced the Preventing Pandemic Profiting Act to ensure hard-working families are protected from price gouging of medical and non-medical essentials with the outbreak of coronavirus. Protecting American consumers from price gouging is a focus of President Donald Trump and his administration.

During a press conference at the White House on February 26, President Trump said his administration would “definitely investigate” any reports of price gouging during the coronavirus outbreak. Then, on Monday, Attorney General Bill Barr released a statement underscoring the Department of Justice’s commitment to combatting price gouging. He said the department would “aggressively prosecute” anyone who jacks up the price of health care essentials in short supply.

This Thursday, to help codify the efforts of President Trump’s administration, Congressman Smith introduced the Preventing Pandemic Profiting Act in the U.S. Congress.

“This commonsense legislation simply brings federal law into line with responsible laws on the books in Missouri,” said Congressman Smith. “Whether it is scam phone calls taking advantage of seniors or criminals looking to turn a profit during an emergency, I’m committed to fighting for the safety and security of Missouri families. American companies and immoral individuals should not use a public health emergency as an opportunity to make an extra buck”

Specifically, the legislation targets those trying to sell goods and services deemed vital and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of others at an “unconscionably excessive price” during a declared emergency. Those who do, are punishable by up to $1,000 fine, and may also be punished by up to five years in prison.

In recent weeks, there have been reports of extreme price gouging on items like hand sanitizer, over the counter medicine, and medical face masks. In fact, weeks after the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global health emergency, some products on Amazon were marked up nearly 50%. A package of Lysol disinfecting wipes, which are usually priced around $13, was priced at over $200. Congressman Smith says the point of this price gouging legislation is to protect the health and safety of all Missourians and prevent businesses and greedy criminals from taking advantage of vulnerable consumers. 

Congressman Smith introduced this legislation on Thursday, March 12, with Congressman Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey’s fifth congressional district.

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