Price-Gouging Bill Clears State Senate

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The state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would outlaw price-gouging following major storms.

Senate Bill 320 cleared the chamber on a vote of 31 to 5 over the objections of some lawmakers who say the measure is not needed. It now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Similar bills were approved by the Senate in both 2011 and 2012 but each time, they died awaiting action in the House.

Sen. Paul Doyle said the bill is \”very narrowly tailored\” to help consumers. \”I think it\’s a sound piece of legislation,\” said the Democrat from Wethersfield.

The measure comes in response to a string of extreme weather that has hit the state since early 2011: record-breaking snow storms, Tropical Storm Irene, the October, 2011 nor\’easter and Storm Sandy among others. Doyle said lawmakers have received complaints from consumers about price-gouging following those events.

But Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, questioned the need for the bill, pressing Doyle on exactly how many consumers have complained about price-gouging.

\”We\’ve been trying to pass legislation for years in regards to a problem that doesn\’t exist,\’\’ Kane said.

More than 25 years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Gloria in 1985, the legislature enacted a bill banning price-gouging in connection with the sale of goods.

However the prohibition did not extend to services, such contractors who clear roofs of snow following a major snow storm.

\”What we\’re looking to do in this bill is move beyond that statute and look at services as well,\” Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said.

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