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‘Deeply unethical’ price gouging should be illegal in a crisis

CHOICE calls for urgent price gouging legislation to protect Victorians in future crises.

Consumer advocate CHOICE has written to the Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz with proposed legislation to stop price gouging on essentials during a crisis.

"The past few months have shown us that in a crisis, consumer protections for Australians are the first thing to go," says Amy Pereira, CHOICE Campaigner.

"We need strong protections against price gougers so that when we are at our most vulnerable in the future, we can trust that essential items will be available at reasonable prices both at the shops and online."

"When these crises happen, sadly some Victorian businesses and people have shown they can't help but take advantage. Over the past few months, we've had a wave of complaints about price hikes on essential goods, from hand sanitiser to medicine. This is a glaring gap in consumer laws in Victoria and we need it fixed as soon as possible," says Pereira.

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Excerpt of the CHOICE letter sent to the Victorian Government. Full PDF on Dropbox: https://shwca.se/pricegouginngvic

The draft legislation proposed by CHOICE would allow the Consumer Affairs Minister to set a 120% cap (of the original price) on essential items during an emergency period, which could be a natural disaster, pandemic lockdown or any situation where essential items are required for public health and safety. Similar legislation has been an effective tool for a number of US states in protecting their communities from price gouging in emergencies.

Under the legislation the minister would have discretion over what is deemed an essential item. CHOICE would expect ministerial discretion to cover items like personal protective equipment, sanitary items, essential groceries, medicine and baby formula.

Over 6,700 people in Victoria have joined CHOICE's call, with over 900 writing directly to the minister this week asking for urgent action. Victorians can join the campaign at choice.com.au/pricegougingvic

"CHOICE are calling on the Victorian Government to fix this now. Close to 30,000 Australians and 6,700 people in Victoria have supported CHOICE's call for an end to the price gouging of essentials," says Pereira.

Media contact: Jim Hook, media@choice.com.au, 0430 172 669

Photos of CHOICE Campaigner Amy Pereira and PDF of letter and draft legislation in Dropbox: https://shwca.se/pricegougingvic