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CoPIRG calls for the swift passage of a new price gouging bill that gives the Colorado Attorney General a greater ability to protect consumers against price gouging during an emergency or crisis. The bill, HB20-1414, sponsored by Representatives Weissman and Titone and Senators Foote and Pettersen, establishes that entities that sell food, fuel, medical supplies or other necessities for an excessive price during a declared emergency will run afoul of the state’s current prohibition against deceptive practices.
“Coloradans should worry about their health and the health of their loved ones during a declared disaster or emergency. They shouldn’t have to worry about being ripped off on the critical supplies they need to get through it,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG Director. “We’re calling for the swift passage of HB1414 – we need to protect consumers against price gouging.”
Price gouging during emergencies including the current COVID-19 pandemic are all too common. For example, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the cost of critical health supplies spiked dramatically on online platforms. An analysis in March from CoPIRG Foundation’s national affiliate, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, found that existing monitoring on Amazon’s platform was not preventing significant price hikes. In particular, the cost of most hand sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average.
In April, U.S. PIRG Education Fund found additional examples of price gouging, including:
- A digital thermometer for $27 but has an average price of $17.99 over the last 180 days
- Three boxes of 20 N95 masks for $239 or $3.98/masks compared to a normal price of $1 per mask.
- Toilet paper for $98 for a box of rolls, nearly three times its normal price.
"At a time when people are most vulnerable and in need of basic necessities to protect their families, their homes, their businesses, and themselves, we must ensure they are not being taken advantage of by any unscrupulous entities that engage in price gouging,” said Katz.
To report price gouging in Colorado, go to the Colorado Attorney General's portal https://www.stopfraudcolorado.gov/ or call 800-222-4444.
To learn more about how to identify and report price gouging, go to CoPIRG’s information page.
To learn more on avoiding price gouging go to CoPIRG’s action page.
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