Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently announced priorities for his 2021 legislative agenda. These priorities include public safety and criminal justice reform, tribal treaty rights, and protecting consumers. With respect to the last priority on consumer protection, Attorney General Ferguson is supporting two bills in the Washington legislature:
- Price Gouging – SB 5191. Currently Washington does not have a specific law prohibiting price gouging during a state of emergency. Attorney General Ferguson would like to change that. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the attorney general’s office received more than 1,300 complaints regarding excessive price increases on essential items like face masks or hand sanitizer. Attorney General Ferguson supports a bill to provide a clear an unambiguous definition of price gouging and which imposes civil penalties for violations. The bill is sponsored in the legislature by Sen. Jeannie Darneille.
- Strengthening the Consumer Protection Act – SB 5025. Washington’s Consumer Protection Act protects against unfair and deceptive business practices and imposes up to $2,000 in penalties per violation. The amount of the penalties has not changed since the law was first adopted in 1970. Attorney General Ferguson points out that the penalties have not kept up with inflation and are not comparable to other states’ penalties for similar violations, which tend to be $10,000 or higher. The proposed new law would increase the penalties to $13,350 per violation, impose enhanced penalties for violations that target vulnerable communities, and strengthen penalties for antitrust violations. The bill is sponsored in the legislature by Sen. Christine Rolfes.
For more information on the 2021 legislature priorities, Attorney General Ferguson’s press release is available online here. In the past seven years, Attorney General Ferguson has advocated for 27 bills that were ultimately signed into law.