Gender Pricing Discrimination – Democrats Team With Republicans To Stop SB 899 (Hueso)

shoppersConsumer Federation of California-sponsored SB 899 (Hueso), a bill that would have ended gender pricing discrimination, was stopped by Democrats and Republicans in today’s meeting of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) dropped SB 899 after it became apparent that a majority of the members of the committee would not support the bill unless he accepted amendments proposed by the committee’s leadership that would have eviscerated the bill.

The bill would have extended current California law banning pricing discrimination by gender for services, such as hair stylists and dry cleaners, to include disparate gender pricing for substantially similar goods based on the gender of the product’s intended user. The bill cited a recent study that the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs conducted which found that 42% of 800 products surveyed, including toys, clothing, personal care products and senior care products, and items branded or marketed for use by women or girls cost an average of 7% more than the equivalent product branded or marketed for use by men or boys.

Senator Hueso presented the bill at the Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, June 21. At the hearing, Assembly Member Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) attacked the bill from all sides, stating that it was not inclusive enough, at the same time stating it would harm California businesses. Assembly Member Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) stated that he wanted better clarification regarding the bill’s definition of “substantially similar” regarding nearly identical products branded for men or women. Senator Hueso pledged to work with Assembly Member Holden and others to improve this definition as the bill moved to the Senate Floor. Committee Chair Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) intervened in this dialogue, urging the committee not to move the bill to the Senate Floor, but to hold it for a week to craft amendments while still at the committee.

Senator Hueso acceded to this request from the Chair. Following the June 21 hearing, committee leadership suggested amendments which would have moved the bill out of the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act into another code, eliminating the strong penalties for violations of that Act, which would have established a standard of conclusive evidence of an intent to market to a specific gender; that would have made enforcement much more difficult than under the current law’s prohibition of gender-based pricing for services. These amendments were not acceptable to the author or the Consumer Federation of California, and Senator Hueso chose not to bring the bill to a vote.

“Big-business interests prevailed over consumer rights in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The committee should have voted to move the bill to the Floor on June 21, but without the support of the Chair and two other Democrats and none of the three Republicans on the committee, manufacturers and retailers remain free to charge a premium for a product, merely because it is branded or marketed to women and girls,” stated Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California.

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