Should women be allowed to be charged more than men for similar products or services?
Context and what the bill does
In some areas of commerce, women are routinely charged more than men. Two prominent examples are haircuts and dry cleaning. Critics of gender-based pricing call it a “pink tax” because it happens much more often to women.
A New York City Department of Consumer Affairs study found that women’s products on average cost 7% more than the men’s equivalents.
The Pink Tax Repeal Act would ban the practice of charging higher prices based on gender for products and services.
It was introduced on April 3 as bill number H.R. 2048 by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA14).
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill levels the playing field, rather than economic punishment based on an immutable characteristic.
“The pink tax is not a one-time injustice. It’s an insidious form of institutionalized discrimination that affects women across the country from the cradle to the grave,” Rep. Speier said in a press release. This predatory practice is unacceptable, un-American, and it will end with the passage of my bipartisan bill.”
“The pink tax also compounds the damage wrought by the gender wage gap, which sees women paid less for doing the same work as their male colleagues, losing on average more than $400,000 over the course of their lifetimes,” Rep. Speier continued. “That financial hit is even more catastrophic for women of color and can extend into the millions of dollars.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that such legislation is subject to too much ambiguity and determination, which could in turn potentially lead to a raft of frivolous lawsuits.
“Most goods cannot be readily identified as ‘male’ or ‘female’ products,” a California Judiciary Committee report wrote in summarizing both the arguments for and against a state-level version. “With the exception of undergarments or goods clearly labeled ‘for men” or ‘for women,’ retailers will often be required to engage in gender stereotyping in order to identify a product as inherently associated with one gender or the other.”
“The Chamber [of Commerce] asks, for example: ‘Is a pink shirt a female shirt just because of the color? Comparatively, is a blue or teal razor a male razor just because of its color?’ The Chamber notes that for many products, especially children’s toys, manufacturers and retailers are moving away from targeting toys specifically to boys or girls.”
Odds of passage
The bill has 51 bipartisan cosponsors, 49 Democrats and two Republicans: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA1) and Tom Reed (R-NY23). It awaits a potential vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
California’s ban proposal was originally vetoed by Republican Governor Pete Wilson, because it included both goods and services. A second attempt which only included services became law. But the congressional proposal includes both goods and services, like the state version which failed.