SACRAMENTO – An activist with the nonprofit Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse said a new bill in the California Senate designed to end gender discrimination in product pricing would instead kill jobs and result in frivolous lawsuits.
“We have concerns that SB 873 will expose businesses to frivolous litigation,” Julie Griffiths, CALA regional director, told the Northern California Record. “SB 873 is broadly worded and the definition of gender bias in pricing can only be determined in a court of law for each alleged violation by a retailer.”
According to the state legislative counsel, SB 873 would prohibit a business establishment from discriminating against a person because of a person’s gender with respect to the price charged for any two consumer products from the same manufacturer that are substantially similar if those products are priced differently based on the gender of the individuals for whose use the products are intended or marketed.
Studies have shown that certain products have differing prices depending on the gender of the user. According to a USA Today report, women are charged more than men for products including deodorant, perfume and other products.
Men, however, paid more for nondisposable razors and shaving gel, the USA Today report noted.
Two years ago lawmakers requested a study of the pricing to be performed by the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO).
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said the study findings show that women are at disadvantage in a variety of product markets.
Sen. Rob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said the report confirmed what had been long suspected – women often pay more.
"Each of these disparities can have a real impact on household finances," Casey told USA Today. He called for Congress to take up legislation to close the pay gap between men and women.
But, Griffiths said passage of the bill would be cost prohibitive for small and mid-size businesses.
“It is adding another burden onto an already overwhelmed court system,” she said.
The California Chamber of Commerce also opposes the bill. Chamber officials said the legislation is a job killer because it includes a private right of action with a minimum of $4,000 in damages per alleged violation, which will expose small and large businesses to a flurry of costly litigation for claims that two products are substantially similar, even though they may be different. Any price differential is based on gender, when it is actually based upon legitimate non-gender-related reasons, they maintained.