AUSTIN – The Attorney General’s office on Tuesday filed lawsuits against three Texas businesses, accusing each of unlawful price gouging during Hurricane Harvey.
State law prohibits vendors from charging exorbitant prices for necessities during a declared disaster.
“It’s unconscionable that any business would take advantage of Texans at their most vulnerable – those who are displaced from their homes, have limited resources, and are in desperate need of fuel, shelter and the basic necessities of life,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “Texas has tough price gouging laws, and my office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases arising from Hurricane Harvey.”
Paxton’s office named the following defendants in the lawsuits:
- Robstown Enterprises, Inc.
- Bains Brothers
- Encinal Fuel Stop
Robstown Enterprises was doing business as Best Western Plus Tropic Inn when the attorney general’s office alleges it charged three times its normal room rate the weekend Hurricane Harvey hit. “As a result, Best Western has ended its relationship with Robstown Enterprises,” the attorney general’s office said.
Bains Brothers allegedly charged $6.99 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas at two Texaco-branded gas stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Aug. 31, even while displaying signs with prices in the $3-$4 range.
Encinal Fuel Stop, a Chevron-branded station near Laredo, allegedly charged customers $8.99 and $9.99 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas on Aug. 31, Paxton’s office said.
The Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s office has received more than 3,300 complaints of price gouging during Hurricane Harvey. “A finding of price gouging carries civil penalties up to $20,000 for each violation and an additional amount of up to $250,000 for incidents calculated to acquire money from victims 65 or older,” Paxton’s office said.
Those who believe they have been scammed or price gouged are advised to call the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-621-0508, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or file a complaint online.