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Stop businesses from taking advantage during disasters, NJ congressman says

In this June 10, 2013 file photo, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. speaks in Trenton, N.J. Pallone has found that National Football League officials improperly sought to influence a government study on the link between football and brain disease. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
U.S Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

Five years after Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey, one of the state’s congressmen wants a federal law preventing price gouging during disasters.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. 6th District, says most people are good citizens who step up to the plate when people are in need. But there’s always those few bad apples.

After Sandy, there were numerous reports of aggressive price hikes throughout the state and more than two dozen businesses faced fines. Price gouging also was seen after recent hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Pallone says people are faced with having to replenish necessities. They are trying to buy gasoline, food, hotel rooms and housing. All of a sudden, the prices skyrocket because some businesses try to take advantage.

Although state law already prohibits gouging, Pallone wants federal protections under his proposed Stand Up Act.

“I’m trying to establish a federal law that will say you can’t sell goods and services at an unconscionably excessive price in the 180-day period after the president declares a natural disaster in an area that’s affected by the disaster.”

He says most states don’t have price gouging laws but it’s always good to have federal backup even in states like New Jersey.

“The price gouging is becoming more and more common especially as we see more storms and natural disasters,” he said Tuesday.

Pallone says the Federal Trade Commission would set up a process that will determine whether price gouging has occurred and set up fines and penalties.

Certain factors must be taken into consideration: Did prices grossly exceed the average price the product was sold at before the disaster? Are sellers in the area selling the product at that same level? Will it cost the business more?

Pallone says the FTC has to determine the level at which gouging takes place, then determine the penalties.

He believes the legislation will be bipartisan and will get President Donald Trump’s support.

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