Biden to form ‘strike force’ to go after price-gouging

President Joe Biden will announce the formation of a “strike force” Tuesday to hold companies accountable for price-gouging practices.

The announcement comes days before the State of the Union address, when Biden is expected to make his economic pitch to Congress and voters ahead of the 2024 election.

The strike force, which will be co-chaired by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), aims to coordinate the Biden administration’s efforts to rein in anti-competitive and unfair practices and lower prices in key sectors including food, prescription drugs and transportation.

“Even as prices have come down on important items like a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs, some corporations aren’t passing those savings on to consumers,” National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard told reporters. “Instead, some corporations are tacking on extra fees, hiding costs and sometimes even breaking the law.”

Republicans have pushed back on the narrative that corporate profiteering is driving inflation — which topped 9% in summer 2022 and has steadily fallen to around 3% in recent months — contending government spending is actually the culprit. The U.S. is one of many countries to suffer from high inflation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brainard called on congressional Republicans to “join this effort instead of standing in the way.”

The strike force builds on the work of Biden’s Competition Council, which he established through an executive order in July 2021 to promote economic competition and crack down on “junk fees.”

Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter described the strike force as an “important next step and new chapter in a fight against unfair and anti-competitive pricing.”

The ​​Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will also announce a final rule to lower the credit card late fee to $8 from $32 for the largest issuers, defined as those with more than 1 million open accounts, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra told reporters.

Opponents of the late fee rule, which was first proposed last February, have argued it will limit access to credit, increase cardholder costs and reduce incentives for cardholders to make payments on time.

Chopra estimated the rule will save Americans $10 billion per year, or an average of $220 per person.

“We have seen the junk fee era really creep across so many sectors of the economy and across government. We’re just trying to make sure that consumers and small businesses and workers are getting a fair shake wherever they go,” Chopra said.

Politics

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