Elected officials in New York are pushing for a new antitrust bill to "crack down on corporate consolidation and price gouging" as inflation soars at its fastest pace in more than 40 years.
Legislators are calling for a vote on the 21st Century Antitrust Act, which officials say "would further empower the attorney general to investigate corporate price gouging and allow consumers to sue when corporate monopolies use their market power to unfairly increase prices." The bill is sponsored by New York State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris.
"When corporations consolidate power, consumers pay the price – literally," Gianaris said in a statement. "It’s time we have the modern tools needed to fight back."
The push comes as the Labor Department's consumer price index jumped 8.5% in March from 12 months earlier, the sharpest year-over-year increase since 1981.
Necessities such as gasoline prices surged 48% in the past year, while grocery prices jumped 10%.
These prices – further squeezing already cash-strapped Americans – are being driven up by a combination of factors from bottlenecked supply chains, robust consumer demand and disruptions to global food and energy markets worsened by Russia’s war against Ukraine.
However, lawmakers argue corporate consolidation is a "key driver" of inflation, saying corporate "profits are at their highest level in 70 years despite supply chain disruptions and the pandemic."
"We need to stand up against industry-dominant corporations, who are rigging the system by unilaterally setting prices of goods and labor, taking hard-earned money out of the pockets of working New Yorkers," Democratic Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said in a statement.
Officials pointed to a recent survey that revealed half of voters nationwide believe "large corporations are taking advantage of the pandemic to raise prices unfairly on consumers and increase profits."
"We must protect consumers from unfair practices and aggressive pricing strategies," Democratic Assemblyman Steve Otis said in a statement. "We need to make sure competition is present and that working families are not overcharged."
The bill is supported by New Yorkers for a Fair Economy, a coalition endorsed by labor unions, small businesses, community organizations and consumer advocates.