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State Senator

Paul Doyle

Deputy Majority Leader

Representing Cromwell, Middletown, Newington, Rocky Hill & Wethersfield

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Contact: Mike VanSambeck
860-240-8820

March 4, 2013

Doyle and Looney Kick Off National Consumer Protection Week With Effort to Stamp Out Price Gouging

CROMWELL, CT—Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) and Senator Paul Doyle (D-Wethersfield) today kicked off National Consumer Protection Week with a press conference at Mountain View Landscape in Cromwell to highlight legislative efforts to combat price gouging in Connecticut. They were joined by the House Co-Chair of the General Assembly’s General Law Committee, Representative David Baram (D-Bloomfield), and Howard Schwartz of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau.

Extreme weather that has hammered the state over the past two years, including two devastating hurricanes and a pair of historic snowstorms, has led to higher demand for certain services including snow removal, flood abatement and the provision of lodging during extended power outages. In the aftermath of these storms, certain unethical businesspeople have taken advantage of vulnerable consumers by price gouging for these services.

Looney’s and Doyle’s proposal, Senate Bill 320, would fix the glaring inadequacy of Connecticut’s laws regarding price gouging for services. The laws on the books apply mainly and sometimes only to price gouging for goods. The proposed legislation would expand the scope of consumer protection laws to more effectively prohibit price gouging for services.

“The severe weather that has battered our state has resulted in millions of dollars in property damage and left Connecticut consumers vulnerable to price gouging for services and lodging,” said Sen. Looney. “Today marks the beginning of National Consumer Protection week which is why we are here to champion an expansion of Connecticut’s price gouging laws.”

Similar legislation has been passed by the General Law Committee and the Senate in each of the past two years with strong bipartisan support. The Co-Chairs of the General Law Committee voiced their commitment to fighting for the bill’s passage in both chambers this year.

“In the aftermath of severe weather events opportunities arise for unscrupulous service providers to mistreat consumers when they are vulnerable,” said Sen. Doyle. “With this law we can send a clear message to our consumers that we have their backs, and we can tell our businesses that this kind of unethical practice will not be permitted.”

“The proposed legislation expands current law by prohibiting price gouging not only for consumer goods but now services that are necessary for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens,” said Rep. Baram. “Goods and services offered for sale for an ‘unconscionably excessive price’ during periods declared by the governor to be a ‘severe weather event emergency’ would be illegal. This will help deter unscrupulous businesses from exploiting consumers during such severe weather events.”

The Connecticut Better Business Bureau voiced its support for the legislators’ efforts to protect consumers from unethical and illegal business practices, arguing that there is no reason why Connecticut consumers should have to worry about being victimized by unfair pricing in the event of an emergency or its aftermath.

“There is a big difference between a modest price increase required to cover increased costs, and when corner stores, retailers, gas stations and others jack up their prices simply to benefit from windfall profits at the expense of distressed consumers who need basic supplies to survive,” said Howard Schwartz of the CT BBB.

Thomas Iacobucci of Mountain View Landscape, a BBB Accredited Business with an A+ rating that offers residential and commercial snow removal services, submitted that price gouging in the aftermath of these storms has an impact on businesses like his. “So much of what we do is about developing a personal relationship with our customers, and building trust. When other businesses price gouge it gives people a bad impression of what it is we do, and makes it that much harder to develop a relationship with them.”

Under the bill, vital and necessary consumer goods and services cannot be offered for sale for “an unconscionably excessive price” when the governor determines that a “severe weather event emergency” has occurred. Whether a price is “unconscionably excessive” would be determined by a court.

 

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