Smith proposal targets price gouging

Jason Smith

Southeast Missouri’s congressman is targeting those who would unreasonably benefit financially from the ongoing pandemic.

Republican 8th District Rep. Jason Smith has introduced the Preventing Pandemic Profiting Act. The measure would prevent price gouging on essential medical and non-medical items during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This common sense legislation simply brings federal law into line with responsible laws on the books in Missouri,” Smith said in a news release. “Whether it is scam phone calls taking advantage of seniors or criminals looking to turn a profit during an emergency, I’m committed to fighting for the safety and security of Missouri families. American companies and immoral individuals should not use a public health emergency as an opportunity to make an extra buck.”

The proposal, introduced Thursday with Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey as co-sponsor, is a response to reports of price gouging on items such as hand sanitizer, over-the-counter medication and medical face masks, according to the release. Smith highlighted specific examples such as price-markups of 50%. One case involved disinfecting wipes that normally would sell for $13 being sold for $200.

Specifically, the legislation focuses on those selling “goods and services deemed vital and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of others” at excessive prices.

Sanctions for violating the law would include a fine of up to $1,000 and up to five years in prison.