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General Issue

Perilous Fires, Pandemics and Price Gouging: The Need to Protect Consumers from Unfair Pricing Practices during Times of Crisis

Author

Mark Giancaspro

Recent crises affecting Australia, including the Black Summer bushfires and Coronavirus pandemic, have devastated social morale and crippled our economy. Countless lives and properties have been damaged or lost. These conditions have inflated demand for basic consumer goods and services, such as hygiene products, staple foods, and utility services. Sadly, some sellers have exploited public desperation, with widespread reports of price gouging. This notorious practice involves pricing high-demand essentials at levels significantly higher than what is commonly considered acceptable, reasonable or fair. This article critically analyses moral and economic arguments surrounding statutory controls before proposing a model law regulating price gouging during times of crisis. It argues that such a law is both essential and easily adaptable to Australia’s consumer law framework. The model law provides a basis for the federal government to consider desperately required change to ensure consumers do not suffer during current crises or those to come.

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