AUSTIN – On Sept. 13, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed lawsuits against three Texas businesses, accusing them of unlawful price gouging while consumers were in need of fuel, shelter and other essentials as a result of Hurricane Harvey.
“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,” Paxton said. “Texas has tough price gouging laws, and my office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases arising from Hurricane Harvey.”
Texas law prohibits vendors from charging exorbitant prices for necessities such as drinking water, food, clothing, and fuel during a declared disaster.
The attorney general named the following defendants in Hurricane Harvey price gouging lawsuits:
Robstown Enterprises, Inc., doing business as Best Western Plus Tropic Inn. The Robstown-based hotel allegedly charged three times its normal room rate the weekend Hurricane Harvey hit. As a result, Best Western has since ended its relationship with Robstown Enterprises;
Bains Brothers, owners of Texaco-branded gas stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Two of the stations allegedly charged $6.99 a gallon for regular unleaded gas on Aug. 31, even while displaying signs with prices in the $3-$4 range; and
Encinal Fuel Stop, a Chevron-branded gas station just outside Laredo, allegedly charged customers $8.99 and $9.99 a gallon for regular unleaded gas on Aug. 31.
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.
To date, the Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s office has received 3,321 Hurricane Harvey price gouging complaints.