State Rep. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, speaks in the House of Representatives. Slap has since become a state Senator.
State Rep. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, speaks in the House of Representatives in 2018. Slap has since become a state Senator. Credit: File photo / CTNewsJunkie

State legislators are pushing for a bill that bans businesses from pricing items or services differently based on gender. It’s often called the “pink tax.”

A 2010 Consumer Reports study on the pricing practice found that women often paid more for the same products. The same trend correlates to services. In a CBS News report in 2016, male and female reporters visited dry cleaners to have the same items cleaned, and they saw that the women were charged at least twice as much as what the men were charged in half of those businesses. Similarly, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that car repairs and mechanics routinely charged women more than men.

This legislation is not the first of its kind, as legislation has been passed on similar grounds as early as 1996, and continues to be passed in California and, most recently, New York state.

The bill proposed in Connecticut aims to do similar things to those passed in other states; make pricing by businesses for the same quality service or item be equitable between men and women.

a green button that says support and red button that says oppose

Sen. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, testified in support of the measure at a public hearing Tuesday.

“Businesses can have full discretion to price things however they want,” Slap said. “It just can’t be based on somebody’s gender.”

Slap also said that the goal of this bill would be to educate businesses rather than enforce punitive measures. 

“Women should not pay more for goods and services simply because they are women,” Slap said.

Tanya Hughes and Cheryl Sharp of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities also testified in support of the bill. 

Hughes said that many items from razors, to scooters, to pens that are pink cost more simply because they are marketed for women. 

“On average, the ‘pink tax’ costs women more than $1,000 per year,” she said.”The state of Connecticut has very progressive civil rights laws and the legislation that Senator Slap is willing to pen will join the plethora of civil rights legislation that have been enacted to protect the citizens of the state of Connecticut.”

As the bill stands now, those interested in filing a complaint would file with the commission and the final punishment to businesses would be to cover the difference in cost. 

Hughes said that they want the ability to levy a fine to businesses who do not comply as opposed to individual damages. 

“By giving the CHRO the ability to levy a fine when the circumstances warrant it. The bill would create a far quicker process and, in combination with the language requiring the CHRO to provide public education on this issue, would also serve the purpose of being a deterrent against gender-based differential pricing, rather than a strictly punitive measure,” Hughes said in written testimony.

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association testified against the legislation saying it would create compliance issues for any business that offers a service.

“For example, under the current language, any person can force qualified service providers to turn over a “price list” – even if they aren’t going to hire them or utilize their services,” John Blair of CBIA said in written testimony. “Furthermore it is not clear what “price list” means in the healthcare setting – Does it mean charges? Does it mean cost? Or does it mean balance after cost sharing? Businesses outside of healthcare would face similar issues of trying to determine what would constitute a “price list” that conforms to the language under this proposal.”