The Judiciary Committee approved a bill Tuesday morning that would prohibit price gouging in the aftermath of a storm emergency.
The bill would apply to goods and services necessary for health and safety like lodging, snow removal, flood abatement and post-storm cleanup and repairs. The consumer protections would go into effect after the governor declares a severe weather event emergency.
A similar bill passed the Senate last year, but was never raised in the House, Rep. Joseph Taborsak, D-Danbury, said.
Under the bill, vendors would be guilty of price gouging if they sold products at a price that was “unconscionably excessive.” The bill does not indicate who makes the decision whether a vendor is price gouging, but it gives courts and the Department of Consumer Protection the power to levy penalties if they see fit.
“I think there’s still an opportunity for a party accused of price gouging to have a defense. I think that the flexibility is intended,” Taborsak said, adding that it’s designed to give the courts discretion.
However, the bill was too vague for Rep. John Hetherington, R-New Canaan, who questioned how the bill defines “unconscionably excessive.”
“This sets forth a standard that is vague and impossible to determine with any precision,” he said. “… It’s like obscenity, you know it when you see it, or somebody knows it when they see it. I guess in this case it’s the Department of Consumer Protection. This is just government by decree.”
The committee voted 30-10 in favor of the bill.