Senator to offer new price gouging bill

| Wednesday, May 24, 2006

After the Federal Trade Commission issued its report this week stating that it found no evidence of price gouging following Hurricane Katrina, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, said he would draft a bill to outlaw excessive fuel price increases.

Reuters reported that Stevens announced his plans at a hearing in which many senators expressed frustration with rising fuel prices, and criticized the oil industry and the FTC.

Stevens told the committee that specifics of the bill had not yet been decided, according to Reuters. He did say, however, that he planned to find a way to define price gouging “so that (the law) can be enforceable.”

A similar bill already won approval in the House of Representatives in early May.

Known as the Federal Energy Price Protection Act of 2006, the House bill – HR5253 – would impose strict penalties for price gouging.

The bill directs the FTC to create an official rule defining what constitutes price gouging, and then orders that agency to begin enforcement of that rule.

In addition, the House bill would give state attorneys the authority to bring civil action against possible price gougers. The bill would establish civil penalties for price gouging as high as $3 million for each day of an ongoing violation. Criminal punishment could be as high as $150 million in fines and two years in prison.

That bill was received in the Senate on May 4, but has seen no action since that date.

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