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H.R. 675: COVID–19 Price Gouging Prevention Act


The text of the bill below is as of Feb 1, 2021 (Introduced).


I

117th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 675

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

February 1, 2021

(for herself, Mr. Pallone, Mr. Nadler, and Mr. Cicilline) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

A BILL

To prohibit price gouging in connection with the public health emergency resulting from COVID–19, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This title may be cited as the COVID–19 Price Gouging Prevention Act.

2.

Prevention of price gouging

(a)

In general

For the duration of a public health emergency declared pursuant to section 319 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 247d) as a result of confirmed cases of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID–19), including any renewal thereof, it shall be unlawful for any person to sell or offer for sale a good or service at a price that—

(1)

is unconscionably excessive; and

(2)

indicates the seller is using the circumstances related to such public health emergency to increase prices unreasonably.

(b)

Factors for consideration

In determining whether a person has violated subsection (a), there shall be taken into account, with respect to the price at which such person sold or offered for sale the good or service, factors that include the following:

(1)

Whether such price grossly exceeds the average price at which the same or a similar good or service was sold or offered for sale by such person—

(A)

during the 90-day period immediately preceding January 31, 2020; or

(B)

during the period that is 45 days before or after the date that is one year before the date such good or service is sold or offered for sale under subsection (a).

(2)

Whether such price grossly exceeds the average price at which the same or a similar good or service was readily obtainable from other similarly situated competing sellers before January 31, 2020.

(3)

Whether such price reasonably reflects additional costs, not within the control of such person, that were paid, incurred, or reasonably anticipated by such person, or reasonably reflects the profitability of forgone sales or additional risks taken by such person, to produce, distribute, obtain, or sell such good or service under the circumstances.

(c)

Enforcement

(1)

Enforcement by Federal Trade Commission

(A)

Unfair or deceptive acts or practices

A violation of subsection (a) shall be treated as a violation of a regulation under section 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B)) regarding unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

(B)

Powers of Commission

The Commission shall enforce subsection (a) in the same manner, by the same means, and with the same jurisdiction, powers, and duties as though all applicable terms and provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.) were incorporated into and made a part of this section. Any person who violates such subsection shall be subject to the penalties and entitled to the privileges and immunities provided in the Federal Trade Commission Act.

(2)

Effect on other laws

Nothing in this section shall be construed in any way to limit the authority of the Commission under any other provision of law.

(3)

Enforcement by State Attorneys General

(A)

In general

If the chief law enforcement officer of a State, or an official or agency designated by a State, has reason to believe that any person has violated or is violating subsection (a), the attorney general, official, or agency of the State, in addition to any authority it may have to bring an action in State court under its laws, may bring a civil action in any appropriate United States district court or in any other court of competent jurisdiction, including a State court, to—

(i)

enjoin further such violation by such person;

(ii)

enforce compliance with such subsection;

(iii)

obtain civil penalties; and

(iv)

obtain damages, restitution, or other compensation on behalf of residents of the State.

(B)

Notice and intervention by the FTC

The attorney general of a State shall provide prior written notice of any action under subparagraph (A) to the Commission and provide the Commission with a copy of the complaint in the action, except in any case in which such prior notice is not feasible, in which case the attorney general shall serve such notice immediately upon instituting such action. The Commission shall have the right—

(i)

to intervene in the action;

(ii)

upon so intervening, to be heard on all matters arising therein; and

(iii)

to file petitions for appeal.

(C)

Limitation on State action while Federal action is pending

If the Commission has instituted a civil action for violation of this section, no State attorney general, or official or agency of a State, may bring an action under this paragraph during the pendency of that action against any defendant named in the complaint of the Commission for any violation of this section alleged in the complaint.

(D)

Relationship with State-law claims

If the attorney general of a State has authority to bring an action under State law directed at acts or practices that also violate this section, the attorney general may assert the State-law claim and a claim under this section in the same civil action.

(4)

Savings clause

Nothing in this section shall preempt or otherwise affect any State or local law.

(d)

Definitions

In this section:

(1)

Commission

The term Commission means the Federal Trade Commission.

(2)

Good or service

The term good or service means a good or service offered in commerce, including—

(A)

food, beverages, water, ice, a chemical, or a personal hygiene product;

(B)

any personal protective equipment for protection from or prevention of contagious diseases, filtering facepiece respirators, medical equipment and supplies (including medical testing supplies), a drug as defined in section 201(g)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 321(g)(1)), cleaning supplies, disinfectants, sanitizers; or

(C)

any healthcare service, cleaning service, or delivery service.

(3)

State

The term State means each of the several States, the District of Columbia, each commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States, and each federally recognized Indian Tribe.