Consumers facing natural disasters like recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico should be protected from price gouging
Washington (January 23, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today called on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to update Congress on what actions it has taken, or plans to take, to investigate and address surging airline prices for emergency evacuees seeking safety. According to reports and consumer complaints on social media, Puerto Ricans seeking refuge from the series of earthquakes and aftershocks that have struck their island in January may be facing excessive fees for flights to the continental United States. Similar issues arose in 2017, when media stories indicated that airlines were charging more than $3,000 for basic tickets from Miami to New York City for individuals seeking to escape Hurricane Irma.
“Airlines should not be allowed to impose exorbitant, unfair prices on Americans simply trying to get out of harm’s way,” write the Senators in their letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “Individuals trying to evacuate Puerto Rico or any other area affected by emergency situations should not have to hope that private companies will make voluntary commitments to limit their prices.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
Senators Markey and Blumenthal wrote to the Transportation Department in 2017 urging the agency to investigate complaints of unconscionable emergency price gouging. In its response, DOT merely promised to monitor the situation and noted that some airlines had voluntarily capped prices for certain fares from cities in the path of Hurricane Irma. Although reports indicate that some airlines have again capped prices for earthquake evacuees from Puerto Rico, emergency price gouging remains a permissible business practice in the absence of any federal rules to protect consumers facing natural disasters and severe weather events.