The Texas attorney general is suing three companies for price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, alleging the practice is unlawful.
“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 Paxton said Tuesday as his office filed the suits. “Texas has tough price gouging laws, and my office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases arising from Hurricane Harvey.”
Texas laws against price gouging prohibit charging “exorbitant” sums for necessities like food, drinking water, fuel and clothing during a declared disaster.
Two of the businesses are being sued for charging high prices for gas. Bains Brothers owns Texaco-branded stations near Dallas-Fort Worth that allegedly charged $6.99 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas while the stations’ signs advertised prices of $3 to $4. Just outside Laredo, a Chevron-branded station owned by Encinal Fuel Stop charged as much as $9.99 for a gallon of regular.
A Best Western Plus Tropic Inn, owned by Robstown Enterprises, Inc. charged three times the regular cost of a room on the weekend Hurricane Harvey hid the area. Best Western is no longer affiliated with the company, according to the attorney general’s office.
The crime carries a price tag of a $20,000 fine for each case of price gouging, a penalty that raises to $250,000 for victims 65 years and older.
In Florida, people were also accused of trying to take advantage of adverse weather to make a buck. The Florida attorney general’s office got more than 8,000 complaints of price gouging before the worst of the storm had even hit. Most people were reporting high prices for food, water, fuel and ice. Florida state law also prohibits price hiking of essentials during an official emergency.