NY bill targets consumer price gouging during outbreak

Sens. Jen Metzger and James Skoufis are among the co-sponsors of a bill that would punish makers and sellers of hand sanitizer, surgical masks and other consumer medical goods for jacking up prices during the coronavirus outbreak.

The proposal introduced in the Senate this month would strengthen New York’s existing ban on price gouging by declaring that any price increase greater than 10 percent during a public health emergency is “unconsionably excessive,” without a judge having to make that determination. Violators could be fined up to $25,000 unless they prove the excessive price increase was beyond their control.

“At a time when the most vulnerable in our communities are at risk, it is absolutely shameful to hike up prices for goods that can help prevent illness and save lives,” Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat, said in a statement about the bill. “This legislation is intended to prevent unscrupulous businesses from profiting at the expense of public health.”

Skoufis, in a separate statement, said: “I co-sponsored this key legislation because during a public health crisis, bad-acting manufacturers and retailers taking advantage of consumers need to be held accountable. This bill is an important step, especially now, and I urge the Legislature to take swift action and pass it. Time is of the essence.” 

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