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State bill would address product pricing that makes women pay more

The Assembly chamber at the state Capitol in

The Assembly chamber at the state Capitol in 2018. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

ALBANY — A bill proposal poised for a final vote in the State Legislature would levy civil penalties against retailers who charge more for goods marketed to women that perform the same function as products intended for men.

"The list goes on and on of products where there is discriminatory pricing," said the bill's co-sponsor, Assemb. Nily Rozic (D-Queens), in an interview. Rozic said she's found socks made of the same material priced higher for women as well as shampoo and pink scooters for children priced higher than blue scooters.

The proposal cites a New York City Department of Consumer Affairs study that found products aimed at women, such as shaving cream and razors, cost about 7 percent more than identical or similar items targeting men.

“The results of the study indicate that women spend significantly more money over the course of their lifetime due to discriminatory pricing practices on products marketed towards women,” according to language in the bill, also co-sponsored by Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers).

Studies in California and Florida had similar outcomes, Rozic said.

A violation could bring a civil penalty of up to $250 for a first violation and $500 for each subsequent violation if both houses pass the bill and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signs it. A violation would be assessed against a store's entire allotment of a product, the bill states, rather than individual items.

The bill is expected to pass in the Assembly as early as this week, but Mayer said she is having continuing discussions with the Retail Council of New York State about "unintended consequences" of the measure. Traditional retailers are fighting a pitched battle against online retailers, Mayer said, and she doesn't want the bill to create a financial hardship. The Yonkers senator said, however, she is still working to pass the bill this year.

The leader of the state retail council said the bill is flawed because similar products marketed for women and men are not identical. 

“As shoppers, men are … likely to ask if it fits … a white shirt or pair of jeans for a woman is going to be completely different,” said Ted Potrikus, president of the council. “They usually are a different fabric, often a better fabric, and the advertising and marketing alone is going to add costs to these things.”

If retailers were simply adding an unwarranted surcharge on women’s products, Potrikus said, they wouldn’t be in business long.

The bill would exempt retailers who sell items with prices mandated by manufacturers. The measure was passed in both Assembly and Senate committees and is poised to be brought to floor votes in both houses.

The legislative session is scheduled to end June 19.

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