WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) applauded President Trump’s decision to sign an executive order on Monday going after individuals intentionally manipulating the supply of vital medical materials and equipment—such as masks and ventilators—in order to turn a profit. Rep. Smith previously introduced the Preventing Pandemic Profiting Act, a bipartisan bill to ensure hard-working families are protected from price gouging during a national emergency. He also stressed that it is important these resources are preserved and made available for rural communities.
With this executive order, President Trump directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of individuals who are found trying to turn a profit by controlling these essential medical supplies to manipulate their market value.
Congressman Smith fully supports President Trump’s decision to issue this executive order, which Smith calls a first step in implementing his bipartisan bill. He is calling on Congress to pass his legislation to not only codify the Trump Administration’s efforts, but to give the DOJ a federal charge when prosecuting these criminal actors.
“I want to thank President Trump, and his administration, for their leadership and commitment to protecting American consumers during this national emergency,” said Congressman Smith. “Unfortunately, even with President Trump’s executive order targeting those trying to turn a profit on these essential supplies, the Department of Justice will have to prosecute these individuals under state laws, and there are currently 14 states that have no laws against price gouging. What we need to do is pass my bipartisan legislation and codify President Trump’s efforts, which will give the DOJ the authority to prosecute this abhorrent practice under federal law.”
Congressman Jason Smith introduced the Preventing Pandemic Profiting Act on Thursday, March 12, with Congressman Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey’s fifth congressional district.
Specifically, the legislation targets those trying to sell goods and services deemed vital and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of others at an “unconscionably excessive price” during a declared emergency. Those who do, are punishable by up to $1,000 fine, and may also be punished by up to five years in prison.
“This commonsense legislation simply brings federal law into line with responsible laws on the books in Missouri and gives President Trump’s Administration the tools he needs to fight this practice” said Congressman Smith. “Whether it is scam phone calls taking advantage of seniors or criminals looking to turn a profit during an emergency, I’m committed to fighting for the safety and security of Missouri families.”
In recent weeks, there have been reports of extreme price gouging on items like hand sanitizer, over the counter medicine, and medical face masks. In fact, weeks after the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global health emergency, some products on Amazon were marked up nearly 50%. A package of Lysol disinfecting wipes, which are usually priced around $13, was priced at over $200. Smith says the point of this price gouging legislation is to protect the health and safety of all Missourians and prevent businesses and greedy criminals from taking advantage of vulnerable consumers.