A Montana Senate panel has approved a bill that is designed
to protect consumers in the state from being gouged at the fuel pump.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports nearly
30 states have some type of price gouging ban. The laws in many of those states
are triggered by emergency declarations.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-5 Tuesday, Jan. 23,
to advance a bill to the Senate floor that is intended to prevent price gouging
in the state during state or federal emergencies following wildfires and other
disasters. The protections would apply to retails sales of goods and services,
The current version doesn't include protections for
occurrences outside the state.
Sponsored by Sen. David Wanzenried, D-Missoula, the bill -
SB67 - would make it illegal for retailers to increase prices more than 20
percent above their costs after emergency declarations.
Individuals found in violation would face up to a $1,000
fine, per occurrence. A maximum penalty of $25,000 would be applied for
violations that last the duration of the event.
Supporters say the bill would boost consumer confidence and
give the state the ability to investigate claims of hoarding or price gouging, The Associated Press reported.
Convenience store owners and other retailers, however, say the bill could drive
them out of business by restricting their ability to respond to market