Pricing gouging protections fail in Louisiana

| 6/27/2006

A failed effort in the Louisiana Legislature sought to provide additional protections for consumers from being gouged at the fuel pump.

Sponsored by Sen. Francis Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, the bill remained in the House Criminal Justice Committee when the session ended June 19, effectively killing it for the year. The Senate previously approved the bill by unanimous consent.

Louisiana currently imposes civil fines on merchants who overcharge for goods and services, including fuel, during or in the wake of a declared emergency.

The bill – SB502 – would have criminalized price gouging and made it punishable by up to two years in jail and/or up to a $2,000 fine. Those who simply attempt to gouge customers could have been fined as much as $500 and/or spent as much as six months in jail.

Merchants would have been permitted to increase prices if the mark up is consistent with similar goods and services outside the state. They would also have been allowed to cover the cost of getting items in preparation for or after a disaster.

Merchants would not have been able to charge a price that “grossly exceeds the prices ordinarily charged for comparable goods and services” during or before the disaster.

The rule would have taken effect during an emergency declared by the governor or a local official. It also would have taken effect when a named tropical storm or hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico.

Another failed effort sought to keep clocks in Louisiana on daylight-saving time year-round has died.

The House voted 61-37 to reject a bill – HB94 – that would have required a permanent spring forward March 11, 2007, at 2 a.m. It would have made Louisiana the only state in the country to not observe standard time.

Arizona and Hawaii do not participate in daylight-saving time.

Supporters said the bill would promote economic development in the wake of hurricane cleanup. Others said an additional hour of daylight in the evening would save energy, allow adults to commute more safely, reduce crime and protect children.