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Cicilline working to prevent companies from price gouging

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gas prices continue to reach record highs and now lawmakers are looking for a change.

The national average price of gas has risen about 16 cents in the last week to $4.48, according to AAA.

Rhode Island’s average gas price is up 20 cents from last week, averaging $4.57 per gallon. In Massachusetts, the average gas price went up 21 cents in the past week, averaging $4.60 per gallon.

According to AAA, Rhode Island ranks #16 for the most expensive gas in the country and Massachusetts is slightly higher at #13.

Congressman David Cicilline says Americans working to recover shouldn’t have to feel squeezed by corporate profiteering. That’s why he is co-sponsoring two pieces of legislation that would allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to aggressively pursue price gouging.

Currently, there is no federal anti-price gouging law but Cicilline wants to give the FTC authority to punish those responsible.

“This is a structural problem but one of the things Congress can do is give the Federal Trade Commission the tools they need to be able to go after companies that are gouging consumers,” he explained. “They could impose a financial penalty. They could direct resources, be returned to consumers that are gouged, they could suspend activities both in the present and in the future.”

Cicilline says the two areas hurting consumers the most are food and gasoline prices. He added the cost for a barrel of oil has declined but not gasoline.

“Rhode Islanders feel it every day when they go to fill up their car. It’s not related to their supply chain, it’s not related to their costs of goods and services, it’s just increasing their profits excessively,” he said. “People have to make real choices. Can we go to this place because we don’t have the ability to pay for the gas or go to the grocery store and start taking things out of the basket because they are too expensive. That can’t be allowed to continue.”

He emphasized that the bills focus on big corporations, adding that local Rhode Island companies are not responsible. Price gouging is affecting consumers nationwide, but especially low-income families, he added.

The legislation was introduced last week and it is now heading for relevant committee hearings. Then it will head to the Congress floor, which Cicilline says he thinks will pass.

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