HARRISBURG – Businesses and consumers would be protected against unintended consequences of the state’s Price Gouging Act under a bill the Senate passed this week, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Judy Ward (R-30).
Senate Bill 139 would require the Governor to specifically activate pricing restrictions when making an emergency declaration. This provision would ensure price restrictions are only placed on businesses when absolutely necessary.
The bill would also limit the duration of pricing restrictions to 15 days (with extensions up to 60 days), limit the scope to goods and services necessary for use or consumption, and simplify the compliance process for businesses. Currently, an emergency declaration can last for a total of 120 days, thus placing price controls on all products for an unusually long period of time.
“Consumers need protection against unscrupulous people who seek to exploit disasters, but we need to strike a responsible balance that does not create price restrictions that run from a March snowstorm until the Fourth of July,” Ward said. “The intent of the law is to protect consumers in the aftermath of a disaster. We simply need to ensure business owners have the proper guidance to prevent many industries from falling victim to regulations that do not make good sense.”
Ward’s bill also includes new protections for consumers by providing guidance on violations for businesses. The original law prohibited sellers from charging “unconscionably excessive” prices, but did not adequately define what that term meant. The legislation would reduce the threshold that triggers a price gouging violation from 20 percent to 10 percent.
Senate Bill 139 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
CONTACT: Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-5490