Moss Bill Would Prohibit Price Gouging During Emergencies

Legislation would ban gouging on lodging, gas, food, medicine, other essential items
Thursday, March 8, 2018

LANSING — State Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) introduced legislation today that would prohibit price gouging on essential goods and services during a state of emergency, such as a severe weather event, terrorist attack or act of war.

House Bills 5714 and 5715, sponsored by Moss, were introduced with bipartisan co-sponsors on the one-year anniversary of the wind storm on March 8, 2017, the worst storm of its kind in Michigan in nearly 20 years in which 1 million people lost power across the state.

“My office fielded reports of price gouging following that storm, including a motel that jacked up its rates from $59 a night to nearly $400 a night for families who sought emergency shelter away from homes that had lost power or were damaged by downed trees,” Moss said. “Twenty-nine other states already have laws on the books that would prevent these bad actors from exploiting vulnerable people during a time of emergency. We must work to make Michigan the thirtieth.”

Under Moss’ proposal, businesses would be prohibited from increasing the price of essential goods or services, including lodging, from exceeding their highest price in the 180-day period preceding a declaration of a state of emergency. An exception would be made if the increase was directly attributable to additional costs imposed by a supplier, labor or the cost of materials used to provide service, or if the good or service was on sale. Hotel operators would be allowed to follow their regularly scheduled seasonal rate adjustments and previously contracted rates. The bill also outlines which goods and services qualify as essential.

An emergency would be defined as a natural or man-made disaster or emergency, including a weather-related event, earthquake, fire, riot, war or threat of war or terrorist attack. The term of the emergency includes the imminent alert issued in the National Terrorism Advisory System by the United States Department of Homeland Security or the state of emergency declared by the governor.

“When a governor or the Department Homeland Security declares an emergency, an unscrupulous business must be stopped from profiteering off of human misery,” Moss said. “House Democrats are tired of seeing working families exploited, and that’s why we’ve made establishing consumer protections a consistent priority. As severe weather events are becoming more frequent, now is the time to protect Michigan consumers and I’m hopeful my bills will see quick passage.”