The New York state legislature is debating a bill this week that would ban the so-called “pink tax,” the designation for the additional charge that is often slapped onto products marketed for women.
New York Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D), who first introduced the bill in 2017, experienced firsthand disparities in the pricing of products based on the gender they’re marketed for — for instance, when she bought a razor, body wash and scooters for her nieces and nephews.
“In everyday life, I’ve seen how gender pricing can impact a woman’s wallet,” Rozic told HuffPost. Now, she said, “it’s incumbent on us in the state legislature to shore that up, make sure that consumers are not being taken advantage of.”
The bill would ban businesses from pricing products that share at least 90 percent of their ingredients differently based on the gender they are manufactured or marketed for. That is, it would prohibit them from charging women more for products like razors and shampoo, just because they’re considered women’s products.
Rozic’s bill did not previously go for a vote in the state assembly and is now back on the assembly floor. State Sen. Shelley Mayer (D) introduced it in the state Senate in 2018, and legislators now have the next seven business days to decide its fate.
The bill’s sponsors noted that the bill will be considered this year in a different political climate now that Democrats hold a majority in the state Senate, which before 2018′s election was controlled by Republicans.
“We’re in the majority and I think there’s a lot of desire to do everything we can to have gender fairness in every aspect of our lives,” Mayer told HuffPost.
The bill would fine businesses $250 for the first time that they violate the law, and $500 for each violation after that. It would not prohibit retailers from selling products at costs determined by manufacturers or distributors.
In 2015, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs released study on gender pricing that found that women’s products cost 7% more on average than similar men’s products — for personal care products, the discrepancy rose to 13%. Hair care products had the largest discrepancy, at 48%, with razor cartridges at the second-worst difference.
As personal care products are purchased at the highest frequency of any category, the study found that “over the course of a female consumer’s time, these discrepancies would have a much larger financial impact.”
The study has “put pressure and created an incentive on this issue,” Mayer said.
New York eliminated the “tampon tax” in a bill signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in 2016, absolving consumers of menstrual products from being charged the 4% sales tax.
“[Gender pricing] impacts everyone,” Rozic said. “It doesn’t really discriminate — whether you’re a young woman or an older woman. Over the course of your life [women are] paying more for products than a man would.”
Small “brick-and-mortar” businesses are concerned the measure will be harmful to them. Mayer represents cities in New York — Yorktown and New Rochelle, for instance — with large numbers of retailers “who are struggling to stay afloat.” As such, Mayer said she is currently reviewing proposed language changes.
Accordingly, Mayer will be taking a more “cautious approach” with the bill, she said, balancing concerns over the detrimental effects of gender pricing with the threat small businesses face, especially in the face of online retailers.
With seven workdays left of negotiation, Mayer is waiting to see whether the bill can reach a compromise. “We’re plowing ahead on this and a lot of other issues,” she said.
“We have seven days left in the state legislature, so I’m hoping we can pass this before the clock runs out on us,” Rozic said. “This is a really critical piece in helping women overcome the wage gap and the imbalance that they face over the course of their lives.”