Trade Commission says gouging not a federal issue

| 9/8/2005

The Federal Trade Commission does not have, nor does it want, the authority to investigate price-gouging allegations.

That's what FTC Associate General Counsel John Seesel told the House Energy and Commerce Committee during a hearing on price gouging Wednesday, Sept. 7, according to news reports.

Seesel said that, while the FTC does investigate charges of collusion among oil companies, regulating the prices would be a step toward outright price controls by the government.

What's more, Seesel said that the states have "adequate firepower" to protect consumers from price gouging.

However, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-CO, said that half the states have no price-gouging laws. Despite that, as many as 40 state attorneys general are calling for price gouging investigations.

The U.S. Department of Energy has received more than 7,000 complaints of price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Those complaints are passed on to the Department of Justice and the FTC, which, in turn, forward them along to the states.