AG Tong, state lawmakers propose price gouging bill to target pandemic bad actors

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Price gouging during the pandemic has been an issue all around the country and here in Connecticut.

On Wednesday, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong joined lawmakers to announce a new proposal to go after the bad actors. The price markup on items like sanitizing wipes was at times seven times the retail price.

Lawmakers will be holding a public hearing on the proposed bill H.B. No. 5307: AN ACT CONCERNING PRICE GOUGING Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in the General Law Committee.

State Representative Mike D’Agostino, chair of the General Law Committee, warned, “If you are thinking about price gouging, even for one day or one sale to make a profit and get away with it, don’t do it.”

State lawmakers and the attorney general are looking to pass a new law. It would target bad actors trying to profit off the pandemic.

“In most cases, we were paying anywhere between four and seven times more for the same product, and in other cases, for specific items, up to 10 times more.”

SHARON FRIED, VP of Supply Chain for Hartford HealthCare

The Connecticut Hospital Association reports blue disposable gloves cost $95 a case in November 2020. Now suppliers are quoting $300 a case for orders delivered in February 2021, less than four months later.

“We would send an investigator from the Office of the Attorney General to the retailer and say ‘why are you having two bottles of hand sanitizer for 40 bucks? We saw these pictures on Facebook,'” said Attorney General Tong.

More than 750 complaints came into the state, but agents hit roadblocks. Current price gouging laws cover gas and electricity, but not action against wholesalers or distributors, especially those of personal protective equipment.

Carl Schiessl, of the Connecticut Hospital Association, said this new law is needed.

“Connecticut’s current law is really insufficient to successfully empower his office to engage in enforcement necessary to weed out the bad actors,” said Schiessl.

Tong agreed

“We don’t yet have the ability to go up the chain to distributors, wholesalers maybe even others in the chain of commerce including the manufacturers,” said Tong.

Hartford HealthCare now has a warehouse of PPE but at a cost. They report spending $3 million, seven times as much for gloves, masks and gowns in 2020 compared to the year before.

Attorney General Tong said seeking an executive order by Governor Ned Lamont would not stand up legally. And admits, while many of the complaints are under investigation, none have resulted in arrests or fines.

D’Agostino reminded bad actors, “The state will stop you, and you’re going to regret it for a long long time.”

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