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Contact: Adam Joseph
860-240-8641

February 21, 2012

Looney and Williams Testify On Behalf of Plan to Fight Price Gouging

Bill would protect consumers from excessive costs for services and lodging in aftermath of severe storms

Steeled in their resolve to protect consumers from price gouging after last year’s series of extreme storms, Senate Democratic leaders today submitted testimony in support of new legislation that will protect consumers when Mother Nature strikes.

Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) and Senate President Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-Brooklyn) submitted testimony in support of legislation they proposed that extends protection from price-gouging for weather-related services and emergency lodging in the event of a severe storm.

“Last winter’s severe storms, Hurricane Irene, the October snowstorm are just a few of the examples of why we need even tougher price gouging laws, and demonstrated just how vulnerable Connecticut consumers are to price gouging for services and lodging,” said Senator. Looney. “By extending the state’s price-gouging ban, originally adopted following Hurricane Gloria in 1986, beyond the goods it covers now, will ensure consumers are well protected when it comes to services and lodging.”

Senator Paul Doyle (D-Wethersfield), who as chairman of the Public Law Committee took testimony at Tuesday’s public hearing, said the proposed legislation will have a clear positive impact on the state.

“Plain and simple, this bill protects consumers from predatory price gouging,” Senator Doyle said. “When a weather disaster strikes and homeowners are left in the dark with no electricity and a tree through their roof, they become vulnerable to exploitation and excessive repair costs. That is not right.”

Record-breaking snowfall last winter and in October wreaked havoc on the state, causing downed trees and power lines, widespread utility outages, roof collapses and dangerous flooding. A destructive tropical storm in late summer crippled the state with even more prolonged power outages. The proposed bill would ensure that no one can sell or offer to sell goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive” price. Services covered by the bill include snow removal, flood abatement services, lodging, and post-storm clean-up or repair services.

“The goal of this bill is to provide what we believe is much-needed protection for Connecticut consumers by broadening the scope of our price gouging laws,” said Senator Williams. “In particular, we believe we need to significantly expand the circumstances under which price gouging for services is prohibited under Connecticut law.”

Current Connecticut law prohibits an increase in the price of any good sold in an area under a formal disaster emergency declaration by the governor or president of the United States. The new proposed bill would extend the ban on price gouging to cover services and lodging as well as goods. The ban would apply during, and potentially in the aftermath of, a declared weather emergency.

The commissioner of Consumer Protection would be responsible for determining whether a price is “unconscionable excessive” by taking into account the common price of the relevant goods and services before the emergency and the amount charged during and after the severe storm.

 

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