With about 10 days left until the end of the legislative session and still a long agenda ahead of them, some state lawmakers have decided to take on second jobs as product-pricing experts, in a misguided effort to bridge the equality gap between men and women.
Lawmakers are considering a bill (A629/S2679) that would prohibit any business from charging a different price for two similar products based on a person’s gender.
We’re talking about items such as shampoos, razors and beauty products, which manufacturers often charge more for the women’s version than the men’s.
On the surface, it sounds like a perfectly reasonable piece of legislation.
Why should women pay more for essentially the same product that’s also sold to men?
But this isn’t an equality issue. It’s a marketing issue. It’s a free-economy issue. It’s a freedom-of-choice issue on behalf of the consumer. It’s about the right of businesses to set their own prices for items without government interference.
Doesn’t New York’s government have anything more important to do than tell companies what they can charge for what they sell?
This isn’t the same as regulating the price of pharmaceuticals, which monopolistic drug companies exploit by charging exorbitant prices to people who have no choice but to pay.
It’s not “price gouging," as some have claimed. That’s when companies exploit a situation such as a natural disaster to significantly raise prices on goods that people need. This isn't that.
And it’s not the same issue as pricing or taxing essential items used exclusively by women, such as tampons and birth-control pills. That actually is an equality issue.
But women in the highly competitive market for health and beauty products have plenty of options to choose from, including buying non-name-brand products and comparison shopping at different stores.
It’s not as if companies are refusing to sell certain “male” products to women. Women can chose to be discriminating shoppers by checking the ingredients and deciding for themselves what they want to buy, including the “men’s” version of the product.
This bill isn’t even going to result in lower prices. Companies aren’t going to lower prices for their women’s products to make it equal; they’re going to raise the price of men’s products.
This bill represents a slippery slope toward more unnecessary, overreaching government regulation of business.
What’s next, targeting the price of women’s clothing? Or will it work the opposite way, with the state forcing women to pay more for products traditionally targeted at men, such as sporting equipment?
If women feel as if they’re being ripped off by slick marketing, they can choose not to be. They don’t need the state to shop for them.