Research suggests anti-price gouging laws like Utah’s created shortages during pandemic

in Government

OGDEN — Recently published research from Weber State University suggests the striking images of empty grocery store shelves early on in the pandemic may have been caused by anti-price gouging laws meant to protect consumers during such emergency situations.

The term price gouging refers to exorbitant prices charged by retailers and producers attempting to take advantage of a surge in demand caused by a natural disaster or other state of emergency.

Laws preventing price gouging typically come into play after hurricanes and wildfires, which affect only a portion of the country at one time. Because the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catastrophic event felt across all states, it presented a rare chance to study the impacts of these laws, according to assistant professor of economics Gavin Roberts.

“That’s a pretty rare opportunity to see the effect of price gouging regulations on consumer behavior,” Roberts said. “So we recognized that this would be an opportunity to compare different things in different states with or without those policies.”
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