February 7, 2005
CURRAN TO TESTIFY AGAINST PRICE GOUGING
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that he
will testify in support of a bill proposed in the General Assembly
that would prevent sellers from price-gouging during a declared
state of emergency.
The law would prevent retailers, home improvement contractors and
others from hiking prices, simply out of greed, on items the public
needs after a hurricane or other disaster, or during a public health
crisis or any other state of emergency,” Curran said. The
Attorney General said that Maryland law failed to provide protections
for consumers who were victims of price gouging following tornadoes
in Southern Maryland and Hurricane Isabel.
Senate Bill 353, sponsored by Senator Leo E. Green of Prince George’s
County, will be heard Tuesday, February 8 in the Senate Judicial
Proceedings committee. The bill would prevent a person from selling
essential goods and services for a price that is more than 10 percent
higher than was charged 14 days prior to the state of emergency.
Those goods and services include food items, consumer goods or
services, emergency supplies, medical supplies or equipment, home
heating oil, building materials, housing (including hotels and
motels), transportation, freight and storage services gasoline,
and other commodities important to the health, safety or welfare
of the public.
The proposed law would also make it illegal, during a state of
emergency and for 180 days following, for a contractor to sell
repair, reconstruction or emergency cleanup services for a price
of more than 10 percent higher than was charged prior to the state
The bill is based on laws in effect in nearly 30 other states that
prohibit price gouging.
The state of emergency would include: a state of emergency declared
by the Governor of Maryland or by the President of the United States;
a “red” condition declared by the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security or the Maryland Emergency Management Agency;
a catastrophic health emergency proclaimed by the Governor; or
a declaration by any of several entities that there is a shortage
of essential goods or services.
Violators would be guilty of a misdemeanor and could be sentenced
to up to a year in prison or be subject to a fine of up to $1,000,
or both. Price increases would not be illegal if the retailer was
able to prove that the increase was directly attributable to costs
imposed by the supplier, or to additional costs for labor or materials
used to provide the services, provided that the price was no more
than 10 percent above the total of the cost to the seller plus
the markup customarily applied by the seller in the usual course