West Virginia bill would expand price gouging protections

| 2/13/2008

A bill in the West Virginia Senate is designed to further help protect consumers in the state from being gouged at the fuel pump.

State law now prohibits sellers of goods and services that are vital and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of consumers from increasing prices more than 10 percent above their costs in the 10 days before emergency declarations. The only exceptions would be for price increases that are attributed to additional costs to sellers by suppliers of the goods or additional costs for labor or materials used to provide services.

Sen. Randy White, D-Webster, has introduced a bill that would put in additional protections for consumers. The measure would drop the emergency declaration requirement for allowing the state’s Attorney General to investigate and charge sellers with price gouging.

Offenders would face up to $1,000 fines and/or one year in jail. The penalties are the same under existing state law.

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.

White’s bill – SB30 – is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for West Virginia in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor