On Equal Pay Day, California legislators took steps toward tackling another form of discrimination against women: pricing discrimination.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-1 in favor of SB 899, which would end gender-based pricing discrimination of products like drugstore items, clothing and toys. It’s been more than 20 years since California lawmakers made it illegal for services like dry-cleaning or haircutting to charge women more than men.
The Consumer Federation of California sponsored the bill, which was authored by State Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego). The bill’s motivation is a December report from New York’s Department of Consumer Affairs. In the report, nearly 800 products are compared at two dozen different retailers. Forty-two percent of the time, women’s products are priced higher than men’s products. The so-called “pink tax” means shoppers are paying an average seven percent more for items targeted to women.
Business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Association, say the bill would mean endless litigation for businesses. There’s also confusion about whether manufacturers or retailers would be responsible for making the pricing of these products even.
Hueso says industry players would have to work together to end the pricing differences.
“The state getting behind this issue will change practices in the retail market. It will flow upstream to the actual manufacturers. They will understand any practice of this will put their product in jeopardy by the consumer and it will expose them to litigation,” Hueso said.
SB 899 will now move forward with a Senate hearing.