Effort in West Virginia to expand price gouging protections fails

| 4/7/2008

A bill in the West Virginia Senate has died that was intended to further help protect consumers in the state from being gouged at the fuel pump.

State law now prohibits sellers of goods and services that are vital and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of consumers from increasing prices more than 10 percent above their costs during the 10 days before emergency declarations. The only exceptions would be for price increases that are attributed to additional costs on sellers by suppliers of the goods or additional costs for labor or materials used to provide services.

Sponsored by Sen. Randy White, D-Webster, a bill that called for putting in additional protections for consumers remained in the Senate Judiciary Committee at a deadline to advance, effectively killing it for the year.

The measure – SB30 – would have dropped the emergency declaration requirement for allowing the state’s attorney general to investigate and charge sellers with price gouging.

Offenders would have faced up to $1,000 fines and/or one year in jail. The penalties are the same under existing state law.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports nearly 30 states already have some type of price gouging ban, with still others pursuing their own rules. The laws in many of those states are triggered by emergency declarations.

To view other legislative activities of interest for West Virginia, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor