Cicilline, Judiciary Committee Leaders: FTC Should Protect Hurricane Victims from Price Gouging

Friday, September 8, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI), who serves as Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee, joined Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and Antitrust Subcommittee Chair Tom Marino (R-PA), this week in sending a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate price gouging in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The letter states, in part:

“Americans who are fleeing their homes to seek shelter from rising floodwaters and other hurricane impacts should not be further victimized by disaster profiteers. The antitrust laws are designed to ensure competitive markets and to prevent unconscionably high prices. It is imperative that the Commission take an active role in policing anticompetitive behavior and protecting consumers from price gouging and similar harms… [W]e strongly encourage the Commission to use all of its appropriate powers to protect American consumers against price gouging and other anticompetitive conduct that has arisen or may arise in connection with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.”

Full text of the letter is here and below.

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The Honorable Maureen K. Ohlhausen

Acting Chairwoman

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20580

We write to request that the Federal Trade Commission actively monitor for, and, as appropriate, investigate potential price gouging with respect to essential and scarce items like fuel, food, and drinking water in the lead-up to and aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. According to local reports regarding Hurricane Harvey, for example, many consumers affected by the storm’s catastrophic flooding have already filed complaints alleging that “stores and other businesses were jacking up prices as the storm surged toward the Texas coast[.] Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has likewise indicated that some businesses have charged as much as $99 for a single case of water. Numerous other news accounts have similarly reported incidents of potential Harvey-related price gouging.

Americans who are fleeing their homes to seek shelter from rising floodwaters and other hurricane impacts should not be further victimized by disaster profiteers. The antitrust laws are designed to ensure competitive markets and to prevent unconscionably high prices. It is imperative that the Commission take an active role in policing anticompetitive behavior and protecting consumers from price gouging and similar harms. As former Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras testified following Hurricane Katrina, “the Commission has a strong role to play in this area."

Accordingly, we strongly encourage the Commission to use all of its appropriate powers to protect American consumers against price gouging and other anticompetitive conduct that has arisen or may arise in connection with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.)

The Honorable Tom Marino (R-Pa.)

The Honorable David Cicilline (D-R.I.)

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