March 18, 2020

Neguse, Cicilline, Nadler, Sensenbrenner Urge Federal Action on Price Gouging Amidst Coronavirus

Washington D.C.—Today, Congressman Joe Neguse led a bipartisan letter alongside Congressman David Cicilline, Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law; Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member for the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law; to the U.S. Department of Justice urging immediate and decisive steps to stop extensive price gouging of consumer health products happening as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. While several retailers have taken steps to maintain access to items such as hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, there have been numerous reports of merchants small and large preying on consumers during this crisis by charging outrageous prices for these essential items. The Denver Post reported that ads posted over the past week on Denver’s Craigslist page listed single rolls of toilet paper for $15, small bottles of hand sanitizer for $20 and a pack of 20 face masks for $100. 

“We have all seen troubling accounts over the last few days of extensive price gouging in the wake of supply shortages and heightened demand,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “Absent a coordinated Federal response, I fear many preventative products will be out of reach for American consumers, thereby placing their health and their family’s health at risk. I urge the Department of Justice to take decisive and immediate action to combat these practices and ensure the health and safety of American consumers.”

“During every emergency, we hear more and more about rampant price gouging that limits access to basic supplies and drives up prices for folks simply trying to get by,” Congressman Cicilline said. “The coronavirus pandemic has been no different. While local and national media outlets have exposed much of this practice and individual states have worked to curb price gouging, there’s no question that a coordinated effort spearheaded by federal enforcers is needed to end this predatory behavior.”

“It is unacceptable that Americans across the country have been forced to pay higher prices for basic essentials and supplies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chairman Nadler. “No one should ever face price gouging and especially not during a crisis. The Department of Justice must act expeditiously to protect Americans from price gouging as we navigate this time of uncertainty.”  

Several state attorneys general have already taken action against price gouging or are in the process of doing so, including Colorado, Washington, Texas, California, New York, Michigan, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.  Additionally, companies like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay have made efforts to curb price gouging on their e-commerce websites. Due to the pervasiveness of price gouging across the country and the growing spread of coronavirus, it is critical that the DOJ play a key role in these efforts.    

“To the extent the Department requires additional statutory tools and/or resources from the U.S. Congress to appropriately address this issue, the undersigned remain ready and willing to discuss these options with you in greater detail,” reads the letter. “It is critical that the DOJ play a central role in ensuring that consumers have access to the items they need to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.” 

Read the full letter here.