WA Senate passes a bill prohibiting price gouging during states of emergency

Olympia Washington State Capitol 2
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OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington State Senate passed a bill prohibiting price gouging during a state of emergency. Now the bill heads to the House for consideration.

The bill, initially requested by state attorney general Bob Ferguson, would fine people and organizations that “engage in predatory price gouging” $25,000 per violation. This includes price gouging on what the bill deems “critical necessities” like health care services, medical supplies, rental housing, motel rooms, gasoline and emergency supplies, such as water, batteries, soap and toiletries.

Initially drafted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AG’s office says they have responded to more than 1,300 price gouging complaints since March of 2020. However, if this bill passes the fines would be in effect in any future emergencies like wildfires, landslides or earthquakes.

“Price gouging impairs Washingtonians’ access to necessary goods and services during an emergency,” Ferguson said. “I appreciate the state senators who stepped up to block predatory price gouging and unconscionable price increases on emergency items. That said, it’s disappointing that so many state senators wanted to allow businesses to dial up their profits on emergency goods and services on the backs of Washingtonians impacted by forest fires, pandemics and landslides.”

Price gouging is defined in this bill as price increases of more than 10% in addition to costs a business incurs during an emergency.

“When the pandemic started and prices for PPE, hand sanitizer and other essential goods skyrocketed, I was shocked to learn that Washington does not have a law prohibiting price gouging during emergencies,” said Washington Sen. Jeannie Darneille. “I saw that seniors and others with limited resources were disproportionately affected by predatory pricing, putting their health and their lives at risk. That’s why I partnered with the attorney general to make sure this never happens again.”