California could abolish 'pink tax' under bill awaiting Newsom's signature

Charging more for pink razors, fruit-scented deodorants and other products marketed toward women that are “substantially similar” to products marketed to men would be outlawed in California under a bill sitting on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

Assembly Bill 1287 seeks to eliminate the “pink tax” within California – a phenomenon where products marketed toward women are more expensive than the same products marketed to men.

“Gendered pricing or the ‘Pink Tax’ is systemic devaluation of women’s economic wellbeing,” the bill’s author, Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, wrote in support of the legislation. “These higher prices, especially for necessities, augments existing gender inequalities in pay and wealth.”

Under the bill, businesses in California would be prohibited from charging a different price for two goods that are “substantially similar” if those goods are priced differently based on the gender the goods are marketed toward. The bill defines “substantially similar” as goods that have similar intended uses, similar functional design, no substantial differences in material or production, and the brand of the product is the same or owned by the same entity.

The bill authorizes the attorney general to seek an injunction to enjoin and restrain further violations of the law by businesses. If a business is found to have violated the law, a court can impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for the first violation and up to $1,000 for subsequent violations up to $100,000.

Lawmakers estimate a California woman pays about $1,351 more for the same goods and services as a man each year, though this figure is based on a 1994 analysis from the State Senate for the Gender Tax Repeal Act of 1995. In 2020, the Senate Judiciary Committee estimated that the figure is closer to $2,381 annually when adjusted for inflation.

Skepticism about the accuracy of the figure remains, however, since there haven’t been attempts to update the numerical figure since 1994, according to Investopedia.

“It is highly unlikely that this figure is still accurate, and simply adjusting it for inflation wouldn’t make it accurate either,” according to Investopedia. “Changes in product prices based on supply and demand, along with campaigns to neutralize gender discrepancies, have certainly altered the amount since then.”

California is not alone in its push to abolish the “pink tax.” Last year, the Pink Tax Repeal Act was introduced in the House of Representatives, and New York enacted a ban on the pink tax.

Newsom has until September 30 to sign AB 1287 alongside hundreds of other measures still awaiting his consideration.

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