Washington may consider price-gouging legislation

Apr 23, 2020
Written by Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has indicated he is looking at introducing price-gouging legislation – possibly during a special session if one is called – in response to the more than 400 complaints he has received so far during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ferguson issued a press release asking citizens to “click-it” and send him any instances of potential price gouging so he and his Consumer Protection team could investigate.

During the final week of the 2020 session of the Legislature, SB 6699, Relating to Economic Acts and Practices During a Time of Disaster, was introduced by Senator Darneille and fourteen co-sponsors. Although the remaining time in the session did not allow for public hearings or debate on the bill, the Washington Retail Association provided an initial critique of the bill to Senator Darneille and others. The full bill is here.

We anticipate this bill may be used as a framework for the Attorney General’s efforts. WR will be submitting comments to the AG for his consideration this week.

Key elements of any legislation must:

  • Be simple to understand and implement.
  • Be tailored to the specifically declared emergency.
  • Focus on protecting the public:
  • From price gouging for truly essential goods and services; and,
  • Focus on the very small number of bad actors and not create undue burdens on businesses that are simply doing their best to provide goods and services during an emergency.

WR will continue to work with Ferguson and his team and any other stakeholders on crafting a workable bill that will get at the bad actors but not hamper law-abiding retailers trying to do the right thing. We will be updating as the issue progresses.

Additionally, it is anticipated that Congress will introduce and include a price-gouging element to the next CARES package. Our national partners, the National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders Association are working on the aid package and we are participating as well.