Pricing gouging protections approved in Wisconsin

| 5/12/2006

The Wisconsin Legislature agreed on a bill last week that is intended to protect consumers from being gouged at the fuel pump.

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.

Wisconsin currently does not have an anti-gouging rule. However, there are laws to prevent multiple mark-ups in a 24-hour period and charging people in line for fuel a new price posted while they’re waiting.

The compromise version would prohibit selling consumers goods and services, such as food, medicine and fuel, at unreasonably high prices during an emergency declared by the governor.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection would draft formulas to determine when prices become unreasonable, The Associated Press reported. Violators would first be issued warnings, and then could face lawsuits seeking up to $10,000 in forfeitures and an injunction.

The Senate passed the measure on a 31-1 vote. The House followed up by approving it on a unanimous vote. The bill – SB358 – now heads to Gov. Jim Doyle, who is expected to sign it.

An earlier version dealt only with protections for consumers purchasing diesel and gasoline. It would have targeted prices that grossly exceed the amount charged on motor fuels within a three week time period.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor