Women charged more than men for deodorants, perfume, other consumer products, study finds

Source: USA Today

By Bill Theobald

WASHINGTON – Women are being charged more than men for deodorant, perfume and some other consumer products, federal investigators concluded in a report released Thursday.

Investigators with the Government Accountability Office could not, however, determine whether the higher prices for five of 10 consumer products tested were because of gender bias or other factors.

It was that concern – raised in other studies that showed women being charged higher prices than men for comparable products – that prompted Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, R-N.Y., to request the study from the GAO two years ago.

The GAO analyzed price data for 10 personal care products and found five – underarm and body deodorants, shaving cream, designer perfume and mass-market body sprays – in which the average retail prices paid were “significantly higher” for women’s products than men’s in those categories.

Men paid more for nondisposable razors and shaving gel, the study found, and there was no difference found in the pricing for disposable razors, razor blades and mass-market perfume.

“GAO did not have sufficient information to determine the extent to which these gender-related price differences were due to gender bias as opposed to other factors, such as different advertising costs,” researchers concluded.

Maloney praised the “targeted, thoroughly researched study” and said it “shows that in ways both large and small, women are disadvantaged in a variety of markets.”

She said passing the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution would provide the legal basis for fighting gender-based pricing.

Casey said the report confirmed what “we have long suspected – women often pay more.”

“Each of these disparities can have a real impact household finances,” Casey said in calling for Congress to take up legislation to close the pay gap between men and women.

The GAO also reviewed academic studies on whether women paid more for mortgages, small-business credit, auto purchases and auto repairs, but could not reach any definitive conclusions because of conflicting results and the age of some of the studies.

The report noted that some state and local governments have passed laws or ordinances to prohibit businesses from charging different prices for the same or similar goods or services.

One of those is New York City. And Casey and Maloney, in their letter to the GAO, cited a December 2015 study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs that compared prices of about 800 products that had different versions marketed to men and women but were “substantially similar” except for packaging. That study found that, on average, women’s products cost 7 percent more than products marketed to men.