Are Consumers Witnessing Inflation or Price Gouging-or Both?


Anna Dziubinska

This past year, consumers have continuously seen prices increase; but are these prices due to inflation or price gouging-or both?

This past year, as prices have been rising in grocery stores, gas stations and car dealerships, consumers are forced to accept the climbing prices. Global issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have resulted in economic uncertainty throughout the world and have contributed to the rising cost of basic necessities.

“Inflation is a sustained increase in the general level of prices in the economy. Economists and policymakers measure inflation using an index of many prices, designed to reflect a wide basket of goods and services,” president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Neel Kashkari said.

The term inflation has been used redundantly this past year, and with that, has been utilized to push political and corporate agendas. However, as consumers, not just in the United States, but throughout the world, are faced with higher costs, it has become difficult to distinguish true inflation in relation to price gouging and corporate greed.

“It is hard for the consumer to tell the difference [between inflation and price gouging], but inflation takes into account cost factors whereas price gouging is taking advantage of a situation,” OHS business teacher Mr. Jurek said.

Economists have reported that consumers are paying about 7.7% more than last year and while the cost of many goods have increased due to global issues, some corporations have used the current market to increase prices.

“I believe many companies are price gouging since they feel they can get away with it due to high inflation,” OHS business teacher Ms. O’Meara said.

According to “Inflation – or price gouging disguised as inflation?” written by John Stoehr, editor of the Editorial Board, price gouging is the effect of power, which comes from a high market concentration. Prices of goods and services are peaking, because the market concentration has peaked.

“Some things would not be price gouging as much as it is business taking advantage of current market conditions,” Jurek said.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, from January to June 2022, the price of regular gasoline rose 49% and the price of diesel fuel rose slightly more at 55%.

While consumers are forced to pay the increased gas prices, oil companies are seeing record profits; the Nasdaq reported.

“I think [the price increase] started as inflation due to supply problems and it became a reason to charge more for gas as time went on,” O’Meara said.

In the United States, consumers will continue to face rising prices, but the current economic recession is not solely an issue in the U.S. Throughout Europe, economic turmoil has left consumers to grasp with growing prices.

According to Euronews, the head of the European Central Bank warned that the economic outlook “is darkening” as high energy and food prices have spiked due to the war in Ukraine.

“I do not think that Americans realize that [Europe is facing major economic issues] because in general, Americans are pretty ill informed about international topics,” OHS history teacher Ms. Naylor said.

In many instances, and most prevalently regarding inflation, many in the United States have failed to recognize that the ever-increasing prices is an issue that has forced many countries to grapple with.

According to CNN, Europe’s natural gas crisis is being driven by its reliance on energy from Russia, which has slashed natural gas flows to Europe in response to Western sanctions.

“The issue is primarily due to an almost catastrophic shift in the markets in terms of where Europeans are getting their oil and gas from. We know that Russia was a major supplier and now Western Europe has to find new places to get oil from and that is going to increase prices,” Naylor said.

With no end in sight regarding COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, major economic shifts have occurred; especially in Europe, where goods such as oil and crops have increased in price significantly due to shortages.

“The past two years have reminded us that it is impossible to predict the future…at our September meeting, my colleagues and I projected that inflation will decline but remain elevated through 2023 and 2024,” Kashkari said.

Unfortunately for consumers, this inflationary period does not seem to be coming to an end anytime soon. As prices stay risen and inflation continues to be a topic of concern, consumers throughout the world are arguably experiencing both inflation and price gouging; and are being forced to accept these increased prices.