Starting Jan. 1, the pink tax — the practice of pricing products higher when they’re marketed to women — will become illegal in California.
The new law will prohibit “charging a different price for any two goods that are substantially similar, if those goods are priced differently based on the gender of the individuals for whom the goods are marketed and intended.”
Stores are widely known for charging more for personal care products — say, pink razors, as opposed to regular razors — that are aimed at women consumers. This also applies to other personal care products such as shaving cream, lotion and shampoo.
Girls are affected by the pink tax starting from a young age, as it applies to toys as well. In 2015, The Washington Post reported that Target listed two identical scooters from the same manufacturer at different prices, selling the pink “girls’” scooter for twice as much.
It’s estimated that women in California collectively spend $47 billion more than men every year for the same products and services.
Although the new law has the potential to reduce this pricing disparity, Liz Grauerholz, a sociology professor at the University of Central Florida who researches the pink tax, told Forbes it may be difficult to enforce.
To qualify for identical prices under the new law, two goods must have the same intended use, have no substantial differences in production materials, have similar designs and features, and be owned by the same entity.
“It is almost impossible to make a side-by-side comparison [of women’s and men’s products],” she told the publication. She believes manufacturers avoid regulations around the pink tax by purposefully making men’s and women’s products look completely different, and therefore eligible to be priced differently.
She added that women’s products often use different ingredients than men’s products, making it even easier for them to be marketed differently.
“It is not uncommon for women’s lotion products to emphasize anti-aging, firming, rejuvenation, or anti-cellulite properties, but such products are almost nonexistent for men,” she and fellow researchers wrote.
Despite the potential for manufacturers to find ways around the new law, Grauerholz told Forbes she said the law “does raise awareness, and, in some cases, there may be remedies.”
California lawmakers will be following in the footsteps of those in New York — the first state to eliminate the pink tax on both goods and services in 2020. A federal bill called the Pink Tax Repeal Act was introduced in the U.S. House in 2021 but remains without a vote.