Entrance to the State Legislature of Nevada in Carson City
Attorney General Aaron Ford is asking lawmakers to make price gouging a crime during a state of emergency or disaster declaration.
He told the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee on Wednesday that Nevada really doesn’t have a price gouging law at present.
AB61 would make illegal deceptive trade practices to sell, rent or offer goods and services during an emergency for prices “grossly in excess of the usual price for that good or service.
Chief Deputy AG Mark Krueger, who runs Ford’s Bureau of Consumer Affairs, said the bill would also increase the penalties for those who violate state and federal anti-robocall laws, potentially charging violators with a felony.
Former Senior Deputy AG John McGlamery, who enforced those anti-fraud statutes for 17 years before retiring from consumer protection, testified he fully supports the proposed statute.
“Nothing is more frustrating than having a scammer stealing $45,000 to $50,000 and all I could charge him with is a misdemeanor,” he said.
Ford said the bill also attempts to protect businesses from unscrupulous vendors trying to gouge them during a crisis such as the pandemic. He said his office has received many complaints from individuals and businesses during the pandemic.
But Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill, R-Carson City, questioned the language removing the four-year statute of limitations from those crimes saying the only other places in criminal law that have no statute of limitations are for murder, treason and sexual assault.
Krueger said that was done because in consumer cases like the Volkswagen emissions case, it simply takes longer than four years to put a case together. He offered a compromise that would leave the criminal statute of limitations in place but allow the AG’s office to go after businesses civilly beyond that.
He said the purpose of much of the bill is to align scam and robocall statutes with existing fraud statutes. He said it does so by declaring many of those crimes deceptive trade practices and matching the penalties.
In addition, he said AB61 has increased penalties for those crimes when the victims are seniors, vulnerable persons or those younger than 18.
Several lawmakers questioned whether the bill was too broad and might reach beyond where it was intended. One question raised was whether the bill would subject gas station operators who can’t control the price they pay to price gouging charges. Krueger conceded that was not the intent.
There were also questions about when price increases resulting from supply and demand become price gouging.
He and Ford indicated a willingness to work with all parties to clear up such concerns.
The committee took no action on AB61.