COLUMBUS—On Friday, State Senators Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) and Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) introduced legislation that targets panic buying and price gouging during a declared disaster or emergency.
"During unprecedented times like the current COVID-19 pandemic, Ohioans must be protected from immoral individuals or companies that seek to profit off of fear," said Manning.
Since the beginning of March, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has received over 400 complaints concerning price gouging by businesses both large and small, online and in-person. Senate Bill 301 will give the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section important new tools to combat this behavior.
First, it gives the AGO permissive authority to establish per-consumer per-transaction quantity limits on goods or services sold by suppliers in times of an emergency. Second, it provides expanded authority to investigate grossly excessive price increases as a violation of the consumer sales practices act after an emergency is declared.
“A marketplace has rules to protect both buyer and seller," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. "When predators try to turn it into a knife fight with no rules, it’s time to take the knives away. There is a difference between a free market and a free-for-all.”
During a declared emergency, the Attorney General may work with businesses to issue a written directive establishing per-consumer per-transaction quantity limitations on the sale of specified consumer goods or services related to the emergency or to the health and safety of Ohioans.
"This legislation will help to protect both the consumers and the supply chain," said Wilson.