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In response to the proliferation of unscrupulous sellers attempting to profit off of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill this week giving the attorney general greater ability to protect Coloradans from price gouging. The law (HB20-1414), sponsored by Reps. Mike Weissman and Brianna Titone and Sens. Mike Foote and Brittany Pettersen, makes it illegal for entities to sell food, fuel, medical supplies or other necessities for an excessive price during a declared emergency. Colorado will join the nearly 40 states that have specific price gouging statutes.
Price gouging has been a persistent problem since COVID-19 arrived in the United States. 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. Later that month, the attorney general’s office reported that 37 percent of the coronavirus-related complaints they had received were around pricing.
More than four months later, and despite calls for change directed at big, online marketplaces from Attorney General Phil Weiser and twenty six Colorado legislators who signed a CoPIRG-organized letter, price gouging is still a problem.
Danny Katz, CoPIRG director, issued the following statement praising the bill:
“By signing these protections into law, Gov. Polis is giving Coloradans one less thing to worry about during this pandemic: that we won’t be ripped off on critical supplies we need to keep ourselves and our communities healthy. Now, the state will be much better able to protect consumers from unscrupulous sellers attempting to make a quick buck during an emergency.
“We want to thank Reps. Weissman and Titone, as well as Sens. Foote and Petterson, for their leadership and ensuring the attorney general has the tools he needs to stop price gouging.”
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