COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost joined a bipartisan coalition of 29 states in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to support Ohio’s authority to enforce price-gouging regulations.
The move is meant to promote public welfare and safeguard consumers during emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Price gouging is appalling behavior and often takes advantage of those in desperate need,” Yost said in a news release. “It has no place in Ohio and is why I have been fighting to establish a price-gouging law for our state.”
This coalition is urging the appellate court to overturn the district court’s decision in Online Merchants Guild v. Cameron. The court entered a preliminary injunction preventing Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron from enforcing price-gouging regulations against retailers selling products on Amazon.
In the brief, the coalition states that national and local emergencies, such as the pandemic, create significant shortages for essential items. State price-gouging laws are essential to ensuring that goods can be fairly allocated among residents, and to preventing bad actors from profiting off of residents by charging excessively high prices for goods that are scarce.
The coalition emphasizes that price-gouging laws level the playing field and ensure a more equitable distribution of goods to high- and low-income consumers. The attorneys general state that price-gouging regulations are particularly necessary during the pandemic, which has caused financial instability for millions of Americans and created and threatened shortages of essential goods. Furthermore, regulating price gouging falls under states’ responsibility to aid vulnerable consumers during an emergency.
Ohio, along with many other states, has taken action that has been crucial to curbing price gouging during the pandemic, including working toward voluntary compliance, issuing subpoenas, sending cease and desist letters and filing civil actions.
In June, Yost filed a lawsuit against an Athens couple who was hoarding and price gouging bottles of hand sanitizer on Amazon.
On April 8, Ohio State Sens. Nathan Manning and Steve Wilson introduced Senate Bill 301, legislation drafted in partnership with Yost's office to establish consumer price-gouging protections in Ohio law. The bill is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Attorneys general from the following states also have signed onto the coalition in filing the amicus brief: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.Ohioans who suspect unfair business practices should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.