May 7, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) joined Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), in sending a letter to House and Senate leadership calling for provisions from the Price Gouging Prevention Act to be included in the next COVID-19 stimulus package. The legislation, introduced by the group a few weeks ago protects against pricegouging during health emergencies and natural disasters by establishing a bright-line rule against price increases of 10 percent or higher on essential consumer goods.

In the letter, the Members and Senators write:

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McCarthy: 

As you work to shape the next stimulus package to address the health and economic needs of the American people during the COVID-19 pandemic, we ask you to include provisions from the Price Gouging Prevention Act to ensure that American consumers have access to the products they need to protect their health and the health of their loved ones. 

As COVID-19 quickly spread across the country, there was a surge in reports of companies and individuals exploiting the current crisis to prey on consumers by charging outrageous prices for affordable household staples like cleaning supplies, masks, and hand sanitizer. Research conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund confirmed rampant price gouging across Amazon’s platform, finding that the “price of most of the sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average.”1 Other examples include small bottles of hand sanitizer advertised for $20, a pack of 20 face masks for $100, and a package of disinfectant wipes that generally sells for $13.57 increased to $220.2 

Due to the pervasiveness of this abhorrent practice, several state attorneys general across the country have taken action under state price gouging or consumer protection laws. However, the lack of a federal standard inhibits federal regulators from playing a robust role in enforcement that would fill critical gaps in state laws and support state efforts. The Price Gouging Prevention Act would establish a bright-line rule against price increases of 10 percent or higher on essential consumer goods and empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and State Attorneys General to enforce the prohibition. Such a bright-line trigger has worked well at the state level, and is essential for giving enforcers the tools they need to act swiftly to protect consumers from exploitative pricing tactics. 

It is critically important we ensure that all Americans not only have access to the preventative health products they need, but also that they are not taken advantage of in an already economically stressful time. Short of that, we risk undermining our efforts to slow the spread and recover from the current crisis. We ask House and Senate Leadership to include provisions from our bill in the next legislative package to ensure that consumers have access to the items they need to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. 

Thank you for your consideration of our request.