Price gouging protections sought in Missouri

| Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Missouri state lawmaker wants to help protect consumers in the state from being gouged at the fuel pump. A similar effort has been offered in the Montana Legislature.

In the case of Missouri, Rep. Mark Bruns, R-Jefferson City, has introduced a bill that is intended to prevent price gouging in the state during state or federal emergencies. The protections would apply to necessities, including food, fuel, water and transportation.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports nearly 30 states have some type of price gouging ban with still others pursuing their own rules. The laws in many of those states are triggered by emergency declarations.

Bruns’ bill – HB241 – would prohibit sellers from increasing prices more than 10 percent above their costs immediately before emergency declarations.

Offenders would be liable for three times the amount “unfairly received for each transaction.”

Bruns’ bill is awaiting assignment to committee.

A similar effort is being pursued in the Montana House.

Sponsored by Sen. David Wanzenried, D-Missoula, the bill would make it illegal for retailers to increase prices more than 10 percent above their costs after emergency declarations.

Individuals found in violation would face up to a $2,500 fine and six months in jail, per occurrence. Businesses could be fined up to $20,000, per occurrence.

Wanzenried’s bill – SB67 – is awaiting final consideration on the Senate floor.

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