The U.S. House voted on Wednesday to approve stiff penalties for stores and stations found guilty of gasoline price gouging, according to Yahoo! News .
This bill will direct the Federal trade commission and Justice Department to go after any oil company, trader, or retail operator if they try to take an “unfair advantage” or if they charge “unconscionably excessive” prices not only on gasoline, but for other fuels. The White House has called this a form of price control that may result in fuel services, saying that President Bush will be urged to veto the legislation if it happens to pass Congress.
The bill needs to be approved by two-thirds of the House members. It is considered an expedited legislative process. So far, the 284 to 141 vote is the only one over the threshold needed to pass it. A simple measure will be considered by the Senate.
This bill would be the first time a federal law is made that would make energy price gouging illegal. Natrual gas, heating oil, and gasoline would be included in the law.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., its chief sponsor, has been pushing for his colleagues to support the bill. He says the issue is whether “to side with Big Oil (or)…side with consumers who are being ripped off at the gas pump” according to Yahoo! News.
Stupak had to soften the bill in order to get it passed. It requires a president to declare an energy emergency before the anti-gouging law can be enforced.
If the bill is passed, stiff penalties will be handed out to price gougers, up to $150 million for corporations, and up to $2 million and a jail sentence up to 10 years for individuals.
“I don’t know what `unconscionably excessive’ means,” Rep. Joe Barton said in reference to a phrase that would trigger a price gouging prosecution.
He says that high gas prices are the result of supply and demand and not price gouging. “Demand has gone up and supply has not gone up. … and the price has gone up,” said Barton, according to Yahoo! News .
The White Hose strongly opposes the bill and will hope the President vetoes it if it passes Congress.
It “would harm consumers, the very people the bill is touted to protect,” said a White House statement to lawmakers. They say that price gouging legislation would amount to “price controls and in some cases bring back long gas lines reminiscent of the 1970s”, according to Yahoo! News .
Only twenty-nine states currently have any sort of energy-price-gouging laws, and they vary greatly in details and in terms of what conditions will bring them about.
originally reported by H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press, House OK’s ags gouging penalties, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070523/ap_on_go_co/gasoline_prices_congress