With fuel prices in Wisconsin pushing $3 per gallon, the
state Assembly approved a bill April 28 that is intended to protect consumers
from being gouged at the fuel pump.
Wisconsin does not have an anti-gouging rule. However, there
are laws to prevent multiple mark-ups in a 24-hour period.
Sponsored by Reps. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, and Samantha
Kerkman, R-Randall, the bill would prohibit wholesalers and retailers from
charging excessive prices for diesel and gasoline.
“We passed this bill the same day Exxon Mobil reported
profits of $8.7 billion in just this first quarter of 2006 alone,” Zepnick said
in a written statement. “It doesn’t take long for my neighbors in Milwaukee to hold up $8.7 billion against the $3 per gallon they are paying … and to
realize that something does not add up.”
The bill targets prices that grossly exceed the amount
charged on motor fuels within a three week time period. It would give the Wisconsin attorney general authority to determine what is excessive pricing.
Anyone found in violation would face fines between $100 and
$10,000, per occurrence.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports nearly
30 states have some type of price gouging ban, with many others pursuing their
own rules. The laws in many of those states are triggered by emergency declarations.
The Wisconsin bill – AB786 – has been forwarded to the
state’s Senate where another fuel-gouging bill is pending.
That bill would prohibit selling consumers goods and
services, such as food, medicine, and fuel at unreasonably high prices during
emergencies declared by the governor.
Sponsored by Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, the bill – SB358 – would allow the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to
draft formulas to determine when prices become unreasonable, The Associated
Press reported. Violators would face lawsuits seeking up to $10,000 in
forfeitures and an injunction.
Lawmakers must reach agreement on one version of
anti-gouging legislation by the end of the week when the legislative session is
scheduled to end.