Introduced by Senator Wilton of Rutland District, Senator Mullin of Rutland District, Senator Giard of Addison District and Senator Starr of Essex-Orleans District
Subject: Commerce and trade; consumer fraud; petroleum products; price gouging
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to protect consumers from excessive and unjustified increases in the prices charged for petroleum products after abnormal market disruptions.
AN ACT RELATING TO PRICE GOUGING FOR PETROLEUM PRODUCTS
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 9 V.S.A. § 2461d is added to read:
§ 2461d. PRICE GOUGING FOR PETROLEUM PRODUCTS
(a) It is an unfair and deceptive act and practice in commerce and a violation of section 2453 of this chapter for any petroleum-related business during a market emergency to sell or offer to sell any petroleum product for an amount that represents an unconscionably high price.
(b) A price is unconscionably high if the profit margin on the sale of the petroleum product is substantially higher than the margin immediately prior to the onset of the market emergency.
(c) Definitions. For the purposes of this section:
(1) “Market emergency” means any abnormal disruption of any market for petroleum products, including any actual or threatened shortage in the supply of petroleum products or any actual or threatened increase in the price of petroleum products resulting from severe weather, convulsion of nature, failure or shortage of electric power or other source of energy, strike, civil disorder, act of war, terrorist attack, national or local emergency, or other extraordinary adverse circumstances.
(2) “Petroleum product” includes motor fuels and fuel oil used for
heating or cooking purposes.
(3) “Petroleum-related business” means any producer, supplier, wholesaler, distributor, or retail seller of any petroleum product.
(d) If the attorney general investigates a complaint alleging a violation of this section and determines that the seller or offeror has not violated this section and if the seller or offeror so requests, the attorney general shall promptly issue a signed statement indicating that the attorney general has not found a violation of this section and shall reimburse all legal costs of the seller or offeror, including the reasonable fees of an attorney.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street