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House passes expanded price-gouging legislation

(House Photography file photo)
(House Photography file photo)

A 2023 law to curb price-gouging may be expanded to offer people more protections when unscrupulous businesses jack up their prices during a declared emergency.

Rep. Brad Tabke (DFL-Shakopee) said the law was very successful, but some severe weather last summer made him realize it needed more bite.

Specifically, he observed that dodgy tree trimmers and damage restoration services — folks who repair and dry out flooded basements — were also taking advantage of people in their time of need.

Minnesota House passes HF3526, bill to expand price-gouging law 3/11/24

He sponsors HF3526 that would add those providers to the list of contractors prohibited from charging “unconscionably excessive prices,” defined as more than 25% above the average price of essential goods or services, during the 60-day period before a declared emergency.

Passed, as amended, 89-40 by the House Monday, it now goes to the Senate.

The attorney general would have the authority to investigate actions against someone violating the price-gouging law and that individuals who do could get fined up to $1,000 per sale or transaction, with a maximum penalty of $25,000 per day.

Rep. Isaac Schultz (R-Elmdale Township) agrees with the intent of the law, but calls it “too ambiguous” for small businesses, adding that the high potential penalties could result in “unfair and undue burdens” that may discourage them from offering their services at all.

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