Price-gouging protections advance in Louisiana

| 6/12/2009

A bill nearing passing in the Louisiana Legislature is intended to provide additional protections for consumers from being gouged at the fuel pump.

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.

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 rule allows the state’s attorney general to investigate price gouging complaints at the retail level.

Sponsored by Sen. David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, a bill – SB272 – to extend the price-gouging ban to include refineries and other wholesalers is awaiting a House floor vote. The Senate has already approved it.

If endorsed by House lawmakers, it would move back to the Senate for approval of changes before heading to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk.

Heitmeier said applying the price-gouging ban solely to retailers proved problematic around the time of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. While most of the industry “behaved well,” Heitmeier said some wholesalers imposed higher prices on retailers. As a result, those retailers were forced to pass on the increases to customers.

Louisiana law doesn’t cover those actions under its price-gouging protections.

The bill closing that loophole is scheduled for a final vote on the House floor Wednesday, June 17.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Louisiana in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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