The House of Representatives, with a margin just shy of veto-proof, has voted to make it illegal for companies to sell gasoline at "unconcionably excessive" prices. Penalties could include up to a $2 million fine and 10 years in prison. The bill also requires the Federal Trade Commission to give special attention to companies with sales of more than $500 million a year (which wouldn't even get them into the Fortune 1000).
Don't worry, I'm sure the FTC will know "unconsionably excessive" prices when they see them. Here's the truffle passage from USA Today's story, however:
There's no evidence of gouging happening and most states already have laws prohibiting gouging... Of course we need a federal law.
Most states have laws that prohibit price gouging but there are no federal gouging laws, according to the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress. Many of the state laws are triggered in times of emergencies.
The issue of gasoline price gouging received considerable attention when prices at the pump jumped nationwide following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The FTC in a May 2006 report said it found no evidence of price manipulation and argued gouging legislation would be tough to enforce and "could cause more problems for consumers than it solves."
The passage came shortly after the FTC said that it has not uncovered any anti-competitive behavior or other illegal business practices by oil companies that have caused current record gasoline prices.
"We have not seen evidence of illegal activity at this time," Michael Salinger, director of the FTC's Bureau of Economics, told reporters after testifying at a congressional Joint Economic Committee hearing on oil industry mergers and gasoline costs.