House Democrats introduce bills to tackle price-fixing and price-gouging | State
(Photo by Angela Breck/Maryland Matters)
Citing skyrocketing fuel and consumer goods prices as corporate profits soar, House Democrats held a hearing on Wednesday on corporate price hikes they say are exacerbating the crisis of inflation.
Members of the House Democratic Policy Committee heard testimony about the impact the consolidation of industries, such as the energy sector, controlled by a handful of companies, was having on Pennsylvania consumers.
They also put forward a trio of bills aimed at preventing monopolistic practices.
“The act of raising prices is an unpatriotic act and it must be called out,” said Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne.
The hearing followed a series of Republican Policy Committee hearings on inflation focused on regulatory changes that could lower consumer prices and spur investment and economic growth in Pennsylvania.
The Law against price fixing, sponsored by Rep. Nick Pisciottano, D-Allegheny, would bolster the authority of the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office to investigate and prosecute price-fixing. This would create protections against retaliation and incentives for whistleblowers who report anti-competitive activity.
The bill would also address decades of court decisions that have placed a heavy burden of proof on plaintiffs in lawsuits against companies accused of collusion by ordering courts to treat certain facts and actions as prima facie evidence of collusion.
The End the law on price gougingsponsored by House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, and Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, would ban gas stations from raising prices more than once every 24 hours, like five other States have done this to prevent abusive price increases.
The Pennsylvania Open Markets Actco-sponsored by Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, and Pisciottano, would modernize state antitrust laws by increasing the attorney general’s power to investigate and prosecute violations.
The committee heard testimony from Lee Hepner, legal counsel for the San Francisco-based American Economic Liberties Project, who said inflation was a major concern for residents of Pennsylvania. He noted a University of Suffolk/USA Today Network poll in which the number of Pennsylvanians who said the economy is in bad shape rose to 45% from 12% in 2018.
Hepner said that while external influences such as the war in Ukraine have spurred inflation, the problem is compounded by companies posting record profits at the same time commodity prices have risen.
Consolidating major industries increases opportunities for collusion because it’s easier for a small number of firms to agree to raise prices and reduces the risk of a competitor going against them, Hepner said.
The Stop Price-Fixing Act addresses court decisions that have rendered existing antitrust laws all but unenforceable by requiring victims of price-fixing to present very detailed evidence before they have had a chance to investigate and to discover them.
On the House floor Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, urged members to support the list of laws, noting that widespread price increases are forcing residents to make stressful decisions between necessary purchases and sent retirees back to the labor market. make ends meet.
“I can tell you who doesn’t feel as stressed and it’s the businesses,” said Davis, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.
House post-Democrat bills to tackle price-fixing and price-gouging appeared first on Pennsylvania Capital-Star.