Wolf Wants Feds To Investigate Gasoline Price Gouging

From a Frank Wolf news release today:
The Federal Trade Commission will be required to investigate the alleged price gouging of gasoline in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina under a provision included the FY 2006 Science-State-Justice-Commerce (SSJC) conference report set to be approved by the House today, according to Rep. Frank Wolf.

"Like most Americans, I was exasperated by the sudden spike in gas prices following the hurricane," said Wolf, the chair of the House SSJC Appropriations subcommittee. "This investigation will hopefully shed some light on what happened and why, and determine if there indeed were any improprieties."
Below is the bill language requiring the probe:
Of the funds appropriated to the Federal Trade Commission by this Act, not less than $1,000,000 shall be used by the Commission to conduct an immediate investigation into nationwide gasoline prices in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina;
Provided, That the investigation shall include (1) any evidence of price-gouging by companies with total United States wholesale sales of gasoline and petroleum distillates for calendar 2004 in excess of $500,000,000 and by any retail distributor of gasoline and petroleum distillates against which multiple formal complaints (that identify the location of a particular retail distributor and provide contact information for the complainant) of price-gouging were filed in August or September, 2005, with a Federal or State consumer protection agency,
(2) a comparison of, and an explanation of the reasons for changes in, profit levels of such companies during the 12-month period ending on August 31, 2005, and their profit levels for the month of September, 2005, including information for particular companies on a basis that does not permit the identification of any company to which the information relates,
(3) a summary of tax expenditures (as defined in section 3(3) of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (2 U.S.C. 622(3)) for such companies,
(4) the effects of increased gasoline prices and gasoline price-gouging on economic activity in the United States, and (5) the overall cost of increased gasoline prices and gasoline price-gouging to the economy, including the impact on consumers' purchasing power in both declared State and National disaster areas and elsewhere;
Provided further, That, in conducting its investigation, the Commission shall treat as evidence of price-gouging any finding that the average price of gasoline available for sale to the public in September, 2005, or thereafter in a market area located in an area designated as a State or National disaster area because of Hurricane Katrina, or in any other area where price-gouging complaints have been filed because of Hurricane Katrina with a Federal or State consumer protection agency, exceeded the average price of such gasoline in that area for the month of August, 2005, unless the Commission finds substantial evidence that the increase is substantially attributable to additional costs in connection with the production, transportation, delivery, and sale of gasoline in that area or to national or international market trends;
Provided further, That in any areas of markets in which the Commission determines price increases are due to factors other than the additional costs, it shall also notify the appropriate State agency of its findings;
Provided further, That the Commission shall provide information on the progress of the investigation to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce every 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, shall provide those Committees a written interim report 90 days after such date, and shall transmit a final report to those Committees, together with its findings and recommendations, no later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act;
Provided further, That the Commission shall transmit recommendations, based on its findings, to the Congress for any legislation necessary to protect consumers from gasoline price-gouging in both State and National disaster areas and elsewhere; Provided further, That chapter 35 of title 44, United States Code, does not apply to the collection of information for the investigation required by this section;
Provided further, That if, during the investigation, the Commission obtains evidence that a person may have violated a criminal law, the Commission may transmit that evidence to appropriate Federal or State authorities; and Provided further, That nothing in this section affects any other authority of the Commission to disclose information.

By Steve Fehr |  November 9, 2005; 1:17 PM ET  | Category:  Politics
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